The DWP’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak has included many welcome changes, benefiting those making a social security claims for the first time, but also those who were already supported by the UK’s safety net. Many issues that social security recipients are still facing in accessing support are similar to the issues CAB clients told us about before the outbreak. Our recommendations aim to help DWP address these issues and are based on quantitative and qualitative data from CAB all over Scotland.
Administrative recommendations to address demand on DWP helplines and delays in making a claim.
- Temporarily suspend the current ID verification process at the start of a UC claim, moving it to a journal task once the claim is up and running
- Allow ‘implicit consent’ for CAB advisers assisting people with benefit claims.
- Allow Universal Credit claims to be backdated to the point of initial contact with the Department as a matter of course.
- Make all forms for Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance available for download and return electronically; and extend the deadline for returning a ‘How your disability affects you’ (PIP2) form.
- Issue clear advice around how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-employed Income Support Scheme interacts with the benefit system.
- Ring-fence resources for crisis communications so that changes around policy and practice can be passed on to stakeholders efficiently.
- Publish detailed information on how the revised assessment process operates for claimants and advisers.
- Make available alternative suitably supported telephony options to make and maintain claims and active promote them to all claimants.
Recommendations to help more people meet their living costs and prevent destitution during the outbreak
- Suspend all direct deductions, including third party deductions, to repay debt from Universal Credit.
- Introduce an additional, non-repayable payment during the first assessment period in a Universal Credit claim.
- Increase the level of the Benefit Cap to reflect the increases in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.
- Increase the level of the legacy benefits by £20 per week to reflect the increase to Universal Credit.
- Introduce a Work Allowance for all who do not currently meet the criteria for the existing Work Allowance
- Reduce the Taper Rate to allow workers to keep more of what they earn
- A longer-term review of how the assessment period can be reformed to prevent extreme income fluctuation and take account of wages paid on a non-monthly basis.
- For surplus earnings not to be carried forward throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, with a review of the overall system of surplus earnings.
- Automatically remove the Minimum Income Floor to ensure that all self-employed people receive the same treatment.
- Extend entitlement to Universal Credit to students, people subject to immigration control and people with capital exceeding £16,000; as well as increasing the rates people aged under 25 are entitled to.