UNIVERSAL CREDIT ( UC ) : Rollout Schedule * Mines * Sanctions * Changes * Delays * Reports From Infected Manors

All about money
227 posts
Well , not an apology but :

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... sal-credit

Esther McVey admits ongoing problems with universal credit.

Changes in pipeline as DWP is accused of failing to respond promptly or take expert advice.

The welfare secretary Esther McVey has admitted there are continuing problems with the much-criticised universal credit system and signalled that further changes are in the pipeline.

She also said Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers and officials needed to listen more carefully to claimants, campaigners and frontline workers when they reported problems and complaints.

The DWP was heavily criticised for its “culture of indifference” in a scathing report by a cross-party group of MPs on Wednesday, which accused it of refusing to accept expert advice and slowness to act when policy errors were identified.

In a speech to the Reform thinktank on Thursday, McVey said universal credit was adapting the welfare system to changing patterns of work and using the latest technology to create an agile service offering “tailor-made support”.

But in an almost unprecedented official admission that not all is going well with the benefit, which is six years behind schedule, she said changes were needed.

McVey added: “And where we need to put our hands up, admit things might not be be going right, we will do.”

The DWP needed to reach out to, and learn from, all organisations that could help officials design and implement a system that fully supported claimants, she said, such as the National Audit Office. . A highly critical report by the public spending watchdog into universal credit triggered a controversy that ended with McVey being accused of misleading parliament and facing calls to resign.

McVey said she was working on changes to universal credit including debt repayment, support for the self-employed and benefit payment cycles for working claimants, but gave no further details.

McVey said she had already made changes to the DWP’s position on a number of issues, including reinstating housing benefit for 18-21-year-olds, and exempting kinship carers – where a child lives with a relative or friend who is not their parent – from the two-child limit, although the latter followed a court decision that termed the policy “perverse and unlawful”.

On Wednesday, McVey ordered the DWP to abandon its legal defence of its position to time-limit the repayments it must make to at least 70,000 disabled and chronically ill disability employment and support allowance (ESA) benefit claimants, adding £150m to a repayments bill already estimated at £340m.

This came within hours of the publications of a critical report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that savaged the DWP for its six-year failure to fix system errors in the transfer of claimants from incapacity benefit to ESA.

Tens of thousands of ESA claimants will receive back-payments of £5,000 -£20,000 as a result of what MPs have called a series of “avoidable” mistakes. The DWP was warned of the error as early as 2014, but failed to take action until 2017.

A sour tasting victory , of sorts ?

For a moment or two , just imagine the anguish and fear that UC has created nationwide ... particularly for those with no real option other than to rely on some form of benefits to exist in today's Sad New World ... say , disabled but demned fit for work ?

How does anyone compensate for that ?
Fresh off this evening's presses ... yes , on a Sunday !

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... lowers-say

Universal credit IT system 'broken', whistleblowers say.

Service centre staff say glitches having harmful effect on huge number of claimants.

Universal credit is so riddled with design flaws and process faults that it is practically guaranteed to generate mistakes and delays that would push vulnerable benefit claimants into hardship, according to whistleblowers.

Service centre workers have told the Guardian that glitches and errors in the “cobbled-together” system have commonly led to claimants’ benefit payments being delayed for weeks or wrongly reduced by hundreds of pounds.

One said: “The IT system on which universal credit is built is so fundamentally broken and poorly designed that it guarantees severe problems with claims.”

He said the system was overcomplex and prone to errors that affected payments and often proved slow to correct. “In practical terms, it is not working the way it was intended and it is having an actively harmful effect on a huge number of claimants.”

Mistakes and delays can add on average an extra three weeks to the formal 35-day wait for an initial benefit payment, pushing claimants into debt, rent arrears, and reliance on food banks. Campaigners warn that the problems could get worse next year when more than 3 million claimants start to be “migrated” to the new system.

Growing concern over universal credit, which is six years behind schedule but will eventually handle £63bn of benefits going to 8 million people, is matched by disquiet over what critics say has been a defensive and insular approach to managing welfare reform by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The department came under withering fire last week from a cross-party group of MPs who accused it of a “culture of indifference” after it had repeatedly ignored warnings of basic process errors that led to 70,000 disabled benefit claimants being underpaid an estimated £500m over six years.

The work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, sought to limit the damage in a speech on Thursday in which she admitted there were problems with universal credit, and promised to listen to campaigners, claimants and frontline staff to find ways to change and improve the system.

One whistleblower said many of the design problems with universal credit stemmed from the failure to understand claimants’ needs, especially where they lacked digital skills and internet access. “We are punishing claimants for not understanding a system that is not built with them in mind,” he said.

The DWP said it would not comment on the whistleblowers’ specific claims but insisted the system was being constantly improved. “Universal credit is a flexible and responsive benefit and we continue to listen to feedback and make any necessary improvements during the rollout with our test-and-learn approach.

“We are committed to ensuring people get the help they need and the majority of staff say universal credit gives them greater flexibility to give people the right support. The latest figures show 83% of claimants are satisfied with the system and complaint rates are low.”

Bayard Tarpley, 27, who left the Grimsby service centre last week after two years as a telephony agent, told the Guardian that he had been dealing with distressed claimants every day. “My hope is that by speaking out I can help explain why these processes have such a significant, harmful impact on claimants.”

He gave several examples of where poor system design and practice caused delays and payment errors, including :

Staff are not notified when claimants leave messages on their online journal; for example, if they wish to challenge payment errors. As a result, messages sent to officials can go unanswered for days or weeks unless claimants pursue the inquiry by phone.

Claimants are discouraged by staff from phoning in to resolve problems or to book a home visit and instead are actively persuaded to go online, using a technique called “deflection”, even when callers insist they are unable to access or use the internet.

Callers have often been given wrong or contradictory advice about their entitlements by DWP officials. These include telling severely disabled claimants who are moving on to universal credit from existing benefits that they must undergo a new “fit for work” test to receive full payment.

Although the system is equipped to receive scanned documents, claimants instead are told to present paper evidence used to verify their claim, such as medical reports, either at the local job centre or through the post, further slowing down the payment process.

Small delays or fluctuations in the timing of employers’ reporting of working claimants’ monthly wages via the real time information system can lead to them being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket through no fault of their own.

Food banks were regarded as a formal backstop for when the system failed, he said. Officials are told to advise claimants who are in hardship and who do not qualify for cash advances to contact charities or their council for help. Many councils have closed local welfare provision as a result of cuts.

A second whistleblower, Joanne Huggins, who was until recently a case manager at the Grimsby centre, said that high staff caseloads and a high volume of calls to the service made it difficult to keep track of and prioritise claimants’ problems. “The system is set up in such a way that people don’t get support,” she said.

At least £1.3bn has been spent since 2010 developing universal credit. Although it is heralded as a streamlined digital replacement for the existing benefit system, a recent National Audit Office report concluded it was still in many aspects unwieldy, inefficient and reliant on basic manual processes.

The DWP says it operates a “test-and-learn” approach to constantly improve the system, although the whistleblower said in his experience staff suggestions were ignored and “top down” adjustments tended to follow media or political controversies, such as the scrapping of call charges on universal credit helplines.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union that represents DWP staff, said: “The findings from the whistleblowers are in line with the ongoing feedback we get from our reps and members who struggle to deliver a service to universal credit claimants in the face of mounting cuts and increasing workloads.”

Well .... follow that ???

Time to prosecute the DWP for gross negligence ... for starters ???
One direct consequence on how UC is paid ... per HOUSEHOLD , not to individuals :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... rs-mps-say

Universal credit payments at risk of being used by abusers, MPs say.

Single monthly payment means abusive partner could receive entire family income, report says.

MPs have called for an overhaul of the way universal credit is paid, to minimise the risk of it being used by domestic abusers as a way of exerting financial control over their partners.

A work and pensions select committee inquiry report says the current default policy of a single monthly payment per household risks the entire family income – including money meant for children – going into the abusive partner’s bank account.

“That risks them [the abused partner] remaining dependent on their abusive partner and making it harder for them to leave, should the opportunity present itself,” the report concludes.

Experts told the committee during its inquiry that the switch to single household payments increased the risk of women being bullied by their partners.

The report cites a survivor of domestic abuse who told the committee of the potential risks of single household payments: “He [the abusive partner] will wake up one morning with £1,500 in his account and piss off with it, leaving us with nothing for weeks.”

Universal credit rolls six working-age benefits into a single monthly payment with the aim of simplifying the social security system. However, MPs heard that this “de-labelled” payments, such as child tax credits, that were previously earmarked for children, and paid to the main carer, normally the mother.

MPs said ministers should consider splitting the payments between the two adults on a routine basis, not just to prevent abuse, but to ensure universal credit properly reflected modern working life and gender equality principles.

Frank Field, the committee chair, said: “This is not the 1950s. Men and women work independently, pay taxes as individuals, and should each have an independent income. Not only does universal credit’s single household payment bear no relation to the world of work, it is out of step with modern life and turns back the clock on decades of hard-won equality for women.

“The government must acknowledge the increased risk of harm to claimants living with domestic abuse it creates by breaching that basic principle, and take the necessary steps to reduce it.”

The report accepts that switching to a default dual-payment system will be complicated, especially as it is unclear whether the much-criticised universal credit IT system would be able to cope. Nor could such a change guarantee to prevent domestic abuse.

But it says ministers have a moral duty to ensure the benefits system does not facilitate abuse and that the Department for Work and Pensions must seriously consider any changes which might offer some protection, albeit limited, to survivors of abuse.

The Scottish government has passed legislation that would require the DWP there to introduce split payments by default. The report says DWP ministers in England should support and learn from Scottish trials of dual payments.

The Tory MP Heidi Allen, a member of the select committee, said: “One of the key improvements of universal credit over legacy benefit systems is the way it seeks to proactively support individuals. So it can’t be right that payments are made by default as a single block to a household.

“In the 21st century, women deserve to be treated as independent citizens, with their own aspirations, responsibilities and challenges.”

The report called for domestic abuse specialists to be introduced into every jobcentre, along with the provision of private rooms to enable privacy for claimants to discuss sensitive issues.

A government spokesperson said: “We have specialist teams in every jobcentre who can support victims of domestic violence. Staff do everything they can to make sure people fleeing domestic abuse get the help they need as quickly as possible. That includes enabling urgent payments to be made for collection within two to three hours and transferring a person’s claim to a different jobcentre.

“The vast majority of jobcentres have private interview facilities. In the small number of offices where these aren’t available we can make arrangements for people to visit other jobcentres that do have private rooms, or arrange a home visit where appropriate. We are also continuing work to look at how we can improve universal support further, to provide assistance for managing finances.

“For those who require additional support, split payments are available. However, it is important to note that previous legacy benefits were also paid to one account and as the report recognises, split payments cannot be the solution to what is a criminal act.”

Yep , one unfortunate consequence of not taking a more realistic approach with payments.
One thread which is never quiet for long !

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/h ... 78491.html

Universal credit claimants " Losing hundreds due to payment dates. "

Charity urges government to change assessment process causing 'chaos' for working people.

Universal credit claimants are losing out on hundreds of pounds a year because of the system’s failure to understand when and how people are getting paid, a leading charity has warned.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said one in 20 cases analysed by its early warning system, which uses evidence from welfare rights advisers to identify issues, were hit by problems with the monthly assessment system.

For working claimants whose payday falls at the “wrong” time of the month, or too close their universal credit assessment date, the impact on how much they receive is significant, a report from the charity said.

Problems can arise from the system over-calculating the earnings of those paid on a four-weekly basis, simply because two paydays can fall within one calendar month.

Being paid early as a result of weekends or bank holidays can also make it look like a worker has earned more because they receive two payments in a month.

Back pay and tax rebates can also trigger the problem, the charity warned.

“Universal credit isn't working for working people,” said Alison Garnham, CPAG chief executive. “In the worst cases, people are losing out on significant amounts of money – hundreds of pounds over the course of a year – simply because of when their paydays and assessment periods fall.

“But we believe most of the problems created by the monthly assessment system can be fixed relatively easily if the political will is there.”

CPAG called for reforms to the system, including allowing claimants to change the date of their assessments so they do not clash with paydays.

“The mass migration of families on to universal credit should not begin until these fundamental problems are resolved,” Ms Garnham said.

The government’s flagship welfare reform has been beset with difficulties since it was first introduced in 2013.

When the plan for universal credit was first announced, it was sold as a way of simplifying the UK’s benefit system.

It was supposed to be sophisticated enough to adjust to people’s changing earnings in real time, but Ms Garham said the system operates using a “huge oversimplification” which is failing to reflect the reality of people’s lives.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said it was “wrong” for working people to be losing out because of ongoing flaws in the system.

“This is causing chaos as this report starkly highlights,” he said. “The government has created this mess and it needs fixing quickly.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman responded: “We are listening to stakeholders’ concerns and working on issues regarding payment cycles and we will consider this report carefully.”

As posted earlier , many saw the effect of this over the Easter period ... two public holidays in different months.

Surprised to see no reports of the UC system crashing as a direct result.

Still , enough UC victims found out ... the hard way !

Perhaps if the DWP ask them nicely , millions will change their working practices to fit into the UC system ????
My son fell into this trap last year, and probably will this year too. He works on a summer contract which runs until 26th August, and that is when his pay is calculated up to BUT the payroll department doesn't pay it into his account until the first week in September, so when he signs on they say he has been paid in September and therefore don't start his benefits until October. No amount of arguing or showing of contracts would persuade them he was only paid for work done until 26th August.
It means his money for 8 weeks work has to last him 12 weeks in reality, and as hes only on minimum wage it makes a mockery of that legislation too

If any on has any ideas how to resolve this I'd be very grateful
The solution rests solely with the DWP.

Only by changing the UC system will mines , like this one , be defused.
More revelations ... this time from a former " Top " civil servant :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... -committee

Paul Gray : On universal credit, ministers were wrong to ignore us.

Former top civil servant says his committee raised genuine concerns about the controversial new benefit that weren’t listened to.

After eight years of difficulty and controversy, universal credit may well be about to move into an even more fraught phase, suggests Paul Gray, who has just stepped down after six years as chair of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) social security advisory committee (SSAC).

Up to 3 million people will start to be “migrated” on to the new benefit system next year. And Gray, who as a senior civil servant was closely involved in the rollout of tax credits under a Labour government, says the potential operational and political risks for universal credit (UC) are huge: “This is where it gets really serious.”

If ministers do not heed the lessons of the past few years, the migration process, he reckons, could trigger more strife. As well as the sheer numbers moving on to the new system, they include working people on tax credits who will have to adapt very quickly to a complex and, for many people, less generous new system – and if they don’t, they will face penalties.

“The chances of bringing it off successfully, and getting 100% compliance are ... well, let’s just call it very challenging. You are calling for a massive shift of behaviour and compliance in people who just haven’t been used to this.”

The mental health charity Mind has already flagged up its concerns that many vulnerable claimants will fall though the net, leaving them without income. Gray says this is a fair observation. Ministers must ensure that proper help for all claimants is in place, properly funded. The current universal support arrangements may not be enough.

“My sense is that the jury is still out on whether that is satisfactorily in place, sufficient and effective in different parts of the country.” Yet, for all this, he is optimistic about UC: “I think it is the right broad direction of travel. Frankly, if it needs to take a bit longer, beyond 2023, is that the end of the world? No, I don’t think it is. The important thing is to get to a point where it is working.”

Gray gives credit to former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith for his ambition, but the idea that this would be up and running within a single parliament was, he says, “with the benefit of hindsight and possibly foresight too, never going to be doable”.

It didn’t help, he adds, that back in 2010 the DWP also agreed to other huge reforms: replacing the disability living allowance with the personal independence payment (PIP), while reducing spending on the benefit by a fifth; extending the employment and support allowance; preparing massive reforms to pensions; and cutting the department’s senior workforce by 40%.

There is an interesting line on this in a paper on the lessons of social security reform that Gray recently published with author and journalist Nicholas Timmins. When Duncan Smith arrived with his grand plans in 2010, the civil service, they speculate, “was too eager to please.”

But it wasn’t simply reform overload.

While the objective of the reforms may have been legitimate, says Gray, their design and implementation too often failed to take into account the varied lives and complex needs of claimants. “Overall, there has been too much thought given to ‘this is the way we are going to do it’; not quite enough of ’how do we differentiate’. An important lesson is to seek to look more at this from the claimant perspective”, says Gray.

The failure of the DWP to listen is a constant thread emerging through the last eight years of welfare reform, he suggests. A recent devastating National Audit Office report into UC concluded that DWP was institutionally defensive and prone to dismissing uncomfortable evidence of operational problems. Welfare secretary Esther McVey felt the need to make a speech last month in which she promised that where problems arose in future the department would “put our hands up, [and] admit things might not be be going right”.

Was there – in the words of the public accounts committee – a “culture of indifference” in the DWP ?

Gray says it was more, perhaps a “mistaken sense of self-sufficiency”. It must listen more to external voices, to service users and its own frontline. Senior DWP officials, he noted, had been striving in recent years to encourage staff to “speak truth to power”, he says. “Clearly, they haven’t been wholly successful. There is a cultural problem they need to tackle.”

In 2014, the SSAC carried out a major consultation on ministers’ proposals to introduce a seven-day waiting period before a claim for benefits could be made. It said that would seriously affect vulnerable claimants – who would have to wait at least six weeks to receive any money – and public expenditure savings would be illusory. Don’t do it, the committee advised. Ministers ignored it, only to scrap the policy four years later, when its malign effects became obvious.

“It was so very frustrating that it [our advice] was rejected at the time,” says Gray. “At the risk of banging the I-told-you-so drum we are pretty pleased that the change has happened, but it would have been far better if the committee’s genuine efforts to anticipate issues likely to arise down the track were thought about at the time.”

He hopes ministers will listen more carefully to the SSAC in future: “We are raising issues of genuine concern. Wouldn’t it be better for everybody if more notice was taken up front, which avoids the need for people to go through unnecessary pain … and frankly the government could save itself a headache.”

More fuel for the fire ... as the UC steamroller continues on it's nationwide journey.
Interesting letter in the Guardian ... in response to an article posted on this thread ... and another example of MrsA's posting on the adverse effects of " Timing " :

Your report (Households left in debt by flaws in design of universal credit system, 6 August) rightly focuses on the rigidity of the monthly assessment for universal credit when it comes to the different ways in which people are paid.

But the report from the Child Poverty Action Group published that day also highlighted the “whole-month approach” to changes of circumstances, which will create additional problems.

So, for example, if you move to a flat with a lower rent in the middle of the month, that is the rent you are assumed to have paid for the whole month when your universal credit is worked out – leaving you with a shortfall.

And if your daughter moves out the day before your assessment date, you will get no universal credit for having fed her for the whole of that month.

So your universal credit may go up and down in an arbitrary way in relation to your needs, depending on when things happen.

Yet you are expected to be learning to budget on a monthly basis. You couldn’t make it up.
The cold heart reality of UC when a claimant needs monies before said benefit is paid :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... deductions

Third of UK’s universal credit claimants hit by deductions from payments.

Cuts to pay rent and utility bill arrears drive people into poverty, warn campaigners

One in three people on the government’s new welfare system are having their payments cut to cover debts, the Observer can reveal.

In a sign of the troubling levels of indebtedness affecting some of the most impoverished communities, official figures show that hundreds of thousands of universal credit payments are being subject to deductions used to pay back arrears in rent, council tax and utility bills.

Charities and campaigners warned that the deductions were driving people into poverty. Frank Field, the Labour chair of the Commons welfare select committee, said they were “fast becoming a main supply route to food banks”.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions under the Freedom of Information Act show that in May this year, 316,100 universal credit claims had deductions imposed on them by the government for reasons other than fraud penalties or jobcentre sanctions.

The proportion of universal credit claims hit by deductions has rocketed from one in 10 in May 2017, to one in five in December 2017, to a third in May 2018. It has risen at a time when the total number of universal credit claims has risen sharply. Nearly 40% of universal credit claimants are in paid work.

Up to 40% of a standard monthly universal credit payment can be deducted – a higher proportion than under the old benefits system. There is growing pressure for that figure to be reduced.

Food bank workers said they were finding that many people were having amounts deducted to cover “advance payments”. These are a form of emergency loan given to claimants who have had to wait a long time for their first installment. Advances were expanded early this year in response to surging rent arrears among claimants.

The increasing use of advance payments is one factor driving the surge in universal credit deductions. However, benefits can also be cut to repay rent, council tax and utility arrears, certain hardship payments and benefit overpayments.

Field told the Observer: “This nationalised form of debt is fast becoming a main supply route to food banks. Too many people are left short of money under the present system. We need an alternative scheme like the one used by some of the utility companies who write off parts of the debt if they can get regular small repayments.”

Abby Jitendra, policy and research manager at the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest food bank provider, said deductions could be “the tipping point into crisis” for some. “Repaying an advance payment, for example, can be an unaffordable expense when taken from a payment that wasn’t enough to start with, pushing people further into debt at the time when support is most needed,” she said.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Deductions from universal credit can make it harder for people to get by. People receiving universal credit are unlikely to have much slack in their budgets, so even small amounts can put a huge strain on their finances.

“Building on last year’s improvements to universal credit, the government now needs to ensure deductions are made at a manageable rate and take a person’s ability to cover their expenses into account.”

Charlotte Hughes, an anti-austerity campaigner who provides support and advice to benefit recipients, said deductions were unpredictable and often made without warning. “The first time somebody knows that money’s been taken out of their account is when they go to the bank,” she said. “It’s just a minefield.”

“Living with that stress that you don’t know what money you’re going to get from week to week, from month to month, that makes you ill – and that’s before you can’t eat, and before you can’t look after your kids properly. It’s rampant.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We recognise the importance of safeguarding claimants who have incurred debt and there are protections in place for vulnerable claimants, but we also have a responsibility to the taxpayer to collect advances of benefits where possible.

“With universal credit, people are offered a range of assistance, including personal budgeting support to help them manage their money.”

All the budgeting support and debt advice in the world is not going to help when people simply don’t have enough money to live on. The personal allowance for UC is still only £73.10 per week. Deduct 40 per cent from that and you barely have enough for food and groceries,let alone covering all the usual bills.

Then if you get a sanction for some spurious reason,all your benefits stop.

As yet we have not seen the worst of it.From next year,the DWP will start the process of moving all claimants on to UC,not just those who are making a new claim. Like the man said ‘ you ain’t seen nothing yet’.

I would not be surprised if the suicide rate was to increase sharply over the next few years,though I sincerely hope not.

.... and the UC steamroller continues on it's nationwide tour.
Ground zero ... London / The Smoke ... just a headline , the rest a variation of what's already been posted earlier in this thread :

Sadiq Khan calls for rollout of universal credit to be paused.

London mayor says expansion poses " Significant threat of harm " to vulnerable claimants.
227 posts