The DWP plans to change the rules for universal credit so that claimants do not face such an obstacle course to take advantage of their benefits.
It has been criticized that the current system causes “suffering and delays” for vulnerable claimants.
A new system is being developed that will make it easier for plaintiffs to appoint someone to assist them with claims and appeals. It is being tested and adjusted before it is officially launched.
In a new report, the Social Security Advisory Committee explained, “Having someone to represent them in their dealings with the ministry – be it a friend, family member, or volunteer sector employee – is essential for many plaintiffs. Some simply wouldn’t be able to navigate find their way in an often complex benefit landscape without this support.
“At the same time, the department has a clear responsibility to protect the integrity of an individual’s personal information. This requires the consent of a claimant before a third party can act on their behalf.”
But it says there are concerns because the DWP currently requires “explicit” permission to be given repeatedly for help with Universal Credit.
This means that instead of saying once that you want an organization, friend or family member to handle Universal Credit on your behalf, they should jump through the hoops by making many specific individual requests and getting approval each time.
Each permission is only valid when the request is completed or at the end of the next monthly universal credit payment term.
And the committee admits that this causes problems.
It says, “Many of the organizations that responded to our consultation have expressed concern that the explicit consent model used in UC did not work well for organizations and the claimants they are trying to support.
They explained that it hinders their ability to help, causes problems for some plaintiffs with mental health problems who depend on the support of a lawyer, and leads to delays. We were told that the consent process poses particular challenges for industry appointees who were tasked with providing and supporting online claims for multiple plaintiffs.
“These challenges would be exacerbated during periods when volumes were higher, which can occur, for example, during the managed migration process.”
The DWP has revealed that it is now trying to make the system more flexible.
It explained, “Because Universal Credit comes on a different platform from legacy benefits, and it replaces six major benefits, the approach to consent must be different.
“The amount of personal data available on Universal Credit far exceeds individual legacy systems, meaning that any data breach has far-reaching implications for claimants. We must therefore weigh consent against this risk.
“Where consent is needed, it can be given quickly in a variety of ways. For example, Claimants only need to put a note in their diary to give consent. This is a much simpler and clearer process than in existing systems. Once consent is given,” advisers work with the plaintiff’s representatives.
“Therefore, we agree to work with the Social Security Advisory Committee to explore ways to improve current practices and to publish a report on our joint conclusions.”
The department says it has developed a broader system to enable UC claimants to get help from others.
After logging in to their online account, claimants were presented with a ‘consent’ tab and asked to provide information about:
- the person or organization helping the claimant
- why help is needed
- the areas where assistance is needed, such as income, health conditions, housing benefits, sanctions or reduced payments, etc.
They would be asked to clarify when this assistance is no longer needed.
Plaintiffs could choose what kind of help they wanted. For example, a person acting on their behalf could be allowed to view details of their earnings, rent, and childcare payments until their next payment is received, without accessing details about their health status.
Universal Credit is the biggest social security change in a generation.
But what exactly is it and how does the system work? Here’s everything you need below. Follow the links below for more information.
1. What is universal credit?
Universal Credit is a new social security benefit that was approved in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and first appeared in 2013. It was rolled out to all job centers in late 2018.
It will replace six existing benefits, now known as ‘legacy benefits’. Find out more by clicking the link above.
2. Universal Credit Calculator – How Much You Get
The amount you will receive is calculated based on several factors.
The government says if you have children, have a disability, or need help paying your rent, you may be entitled to additional amounts on top of the standard supplement. Find out more by clicking the link above.
3. Eligibility for Universal Credit and How to Apply
Under the qualification criteria, you must be low-income or unemployed.
And it’s important to keep in mind that your partner’s income and savings are taken into account, even if they don’t apply for the benefits themselves. Find out more about eligibility by clicking the link above.
4. How often is it paid and how the online account works
To get Universal Credit, TWO accounts are required.
One is a Universal Credit online account where your information (such as the date of the next payment) is available for viewing, the other is a checking account with a bank or home loan where the government pays your money. Find out more by clicking the link above.
5. Universal Credit Contact Numbers if you need assistance
There are some dedicated helpline numbers you can call if you need assistance. They have been changed to toll-free numbers so there is no charge for calling. Find out more by clicking the link above.
6. How to change your payments when you are struggling
Claimants should be aware that the first payment will not be made until five weeks after a claim – and every month thereafter.
If you’re not used to waiting an entire month for your payment, this can be difficult. But there is a little known way around that. Find out more by clicking the link above
7. What to do if your universal credit payments are reduced
There are instances where the Department of Work and Pensions imposes sanctions on plaintiffs if they appear to have broken the rules, for example by not showing up for a job center appointments.
In such cases, Universal Credit can be discontinued or discontinued altogether. Learn what you can do by clicking the link above.
The system generates a unique code that is shared with the person or organization providing support so that they can access relevant parts of the claimant’s account within the specified time period.
Access would be automatically suspended once the end date or event was reached, unless the claimant had decided to extend it.
This model is now being further adapted and tested before it is officially introduced.
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The Social Security Advisory Committee concluded: “We are delighted that the Department continues to develop and refine its prototype in positive collaboration with end users.
“We also recognize and commend the Department for the remarkable work it has undertaken to respond quickly to a changing landscape, including a significant set of policy and operational challenges, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
However, the circumstances that many plaintiffs currently find themselves in as a result of Covid-19 simply underscore the importance of effective consent arrangements.
“It is therefore essential to ensure that the final model works effectively – for both those who need support and those who provide it – and ensure that the right support can be provided to claimants in the right way at the right time . “