A council has blasted the Department for Work and Pensions for its ‘grotesque’ practice – which workers say is carried out routinely to update details of claimants.
Department for Work and Pensions chiefs were found to be interviewing people awaiting NHS treatment to ensure they were on the right money and not abusing the system.
The practice has been condemned as ‘grotesque’ by a council scrutiny panel in London, where it has emerged hospitalised Universal Credit claimants have received shock visits from the welfare state police.
In one instance, DWP officers visited a person in hospital awaiting an operation because they had missed an appointment.
The behaviour was uncovered as part of a review by Islington’s Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee, which has been tracking the full rollout of Universal Credit in Islington since June, reports the Islington Gazette.
Outraged members have called for an immediate clampdown. “When people are in hospital they are not there to be chased and it’s not for the DWP to guess or validate if they are well or unwell,” Councillor Troy Gallagher said.
“I think it’s callous. “It’s an issue they need to amend quickly because it’s highly stressful and deeply upsetting.” The visits – which the DWP say are carried out routinely to confirm people’s details – were labelled ‘grotesque’ and ‘unbelievable’.
“If someone says they’re unwell, whatever the reason is, you should always accept that,” Cllr Gallagher said.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Jobcentre staff occasionally conduct hospital visits to confirm people’s bank account or rent details. This ensures we can pay their full benefits on time.” They added that visits to claimants homes will be made “if necessary”.
There’s no suggestion that a similar practice has been adopted anywhere locally in Plymouth or wider Devon. It comes as calls continue to grow for an overhaul of the Universal Credit system – which is being rolled out across the UK and replacing a number of historic welfare benefits.
Campaigners want a ‘basic universal income’ for all introduced instead – a flat rate given to everyone so the system is fairer for all. As reported, there are now more than 10,000 people in Plymouth on Universal Credit.
The pressure of Christmas saw an extra 859 people dive into the controversial benefits pool in December, taking the total across the city to 10,253.
It came in the same month welfare officials were slammed for scrapping a £10 top-up bonus some used in their budgets to stop the festive season becoming a huge burden.
One man on the benefits system – dogged with problems since its introduction in 2017 – told Plymouth Live he was considering going out to steal to fund his little boy’s Christmas because he was having issues gaining cash.
He had been signed off work since earlier in the year but was caught in a row over payments because he was previously self-employed. While another, come New Year’s Eve, revealed he’d received a payment of just 1p – leaving him with a mere 77p to live on for two weeks.
The DWP say the Universal Credit system is more than fair and encourages people to get back into work and not remain a slave to the state.
Universal Credit – the facts
Who can get Universal Credit
Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on your circumstances and where you live.
You can apply for Universal Credit if you are on a low income or unemployed.
You will usually only be able to claim Universal Credit if you are aged 18 or over, but some people aged 16 or 17 can get it, depending on their circumstances.
And you usually won’t be able to claim Universal Credit if you’re in full-time education or training, but people with certain circumstances can still apply.
You can use a benefits calculator to help you understand what benefits you could get. You will be asked to enter information about your circumstances, and it will tell you which benefits you might be able to apply for. One of those might be Universal Credit.
Where you live
The Citizens Advice eligibility checker will tell you if you live in an area where you can claim Universal Credit. Using this link will take you to the Citizens Advice website.
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages, so even if you can’t claim Universal Credit now, it may become available in your area in the future.
If you want to go straight to making a claim for Universal Credit visit gov.uk/universal-credit
If you live in Northern Ireland go to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland
What Universal Credit replaces
Universal Credit replaces:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
If you are already claiming these benefits or tax credits you don’t need to do anything now.
The Department for Work and Pensions will get in touch with you before there are any changes to your benefits or tax credits.
If you receive these benefits or tax credits and your circumstances change in a way that would have meant you would make a new claim to one of these benefits, you will now need to claim Universal Credit instead.
If you are receiving any of these benefits or tax credits they will stop if you make a Universal Credit claim.
If you are getting tax credits you can still choose to apply for Universal Credit, depending on your circumstances, but if you do all your benefits that Universal Credit replaces will stop.
Universal Credit – what is it and the problems so far
The system was first introduced in 2013, and was intended to replace six “legacy” benefits, including unemployment benefit, tax credits and
It was supposed to be implemented across the UK by 2017, but management failures, IT blunders and design faults mean it has already
fallen at least six years behind schedule.
When will it be fully introduced?
The system is now not expected to be fully operational until December 2023. There have been a wealth of problems caused by the new single benefit.
The government are currently facing a fresh legal challenge in the High Court over the policy – with campaigners arguing that universal
credit is “irrational” and has a “disproportionately adverse effect” on disabled claimants.
The problems – and those fighting back
It follows a previous victory at the High Court earlier in January for four working single mothers, who claimed they were struggling financially because of the way their UC payments were calculated.
As well as leaving claimants with nothing to live on during the transition period – which takes longer than a month – many are then finding they are then worse off than they were while on legacy benefits.
Meanwhile, flaws in the system put poorer claimants especially at heightened risk of hunger, debt and rent arrears, ill-health and homelessness.
Rise in food bank use
The Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank network – have reported that food bank referral rates in areas where the full Universal Credit rollout has taken place are more than twice as high as the national average.
Meanwhile, a BBC Panorama investigation revealed that council tenants on Universal Credit have on average more than double the rent arrears
of those still on housing benefit.
Across Great Britain, nearly 1.6 million people were on Universal Credit in December – up from 1.4 million in November, and working out as one in
every 41 people.
Government benefit cap – what you need to know
The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit you can get. It applies to most people aged 16 or over who have not reached State Pension age.
Who it affects
The amount your household gets from some benefits might go down to make sure you do not get more than the cap limit. The benefit cap affects:
- Bereavement Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Maternity Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widow’s Pension if you started getting it before 9 April 2001)
- Universal Credit