Sir Stephen Sedley [below], a former Lord Justice of Appeal, has warned the “opaque” way the benefit is paid leads to injustice and stress for some of Britain’s poorest people.
The DWP is failing in its legal duties over “Orwellian” Universal Credit , a former Lord Justice of Appeal declares today and he warns the “opaque” way the benefit is paid forces hard-up families to “guess and grope” at whether payments are correct.
That feeds into poor claimants’ “stress and worry” and affects their children, the Court of Appeal judge from 1999 to 2011 says. He accuses the six-in-one benefit of a “systemic failure to meet basic standards”, adding: “None of this is compatible with the rule of law.”
Sir Stephen’s damning statement is part of a charity report that warns the “opaque and inadequate” UC system is leaving families “in the dark”. The Child Poverty Action Group studied the decision to issue a single monthly UC payment, with only a “basic” breakdown of how it was worked out.
He wrote: “There is something Orwellian about a system intended to alleviate hardship – yet administered in ways which generate and aggravate human misery” This “inadequate” information means many of the UK’s 1.8million UC claimants don’t know if there has been a mistake, CPAG said. Of 1,110 cases flagged to the charity’s Early Warning System, a fifth involved an administrative error by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
- In one case, a man with terminal cancer struggled by for several months with £328 a month less than he was owed until an advisor spotted the error.
- In another case a grandmother only discovered she was being wrongly charged the Bedroom Tax after six months.
- In another, a working mum with two part-time jobs only found about errors costing her £400 a month after she saw a welfare rights advisor.
In a foreword to the report, Sir Stephen wrote:
“There is something Orwellian about a system
which is intended to alleviate hardship
yet is administered in ways which generate and aggravate human misery.”
He accuses the six-in-one benefit of a “systemic failure to meet basic standards”, adding: “None of this is compatible with the rule of law”
Sir Stephen said it is a “fundamental principle” that government decisions must be clearly explained and open to appeal.
But “the DWP is repeatedly falling down on every element of these public law obligations in its administration of Universal Credit,” he wrote. He warned the “opaque” system makes it “hard to comprehend” how much of each month’s payment is for housing costs or childcare.
In turn that makes the final amount difficult to challenge, leading to “disaster” where the DWP gets it wrong, he wrote. “People in need are left to guess at and grope for things which should be clear and tangible,” he wrote.
According to the report, UC helpline staff were often unable to explain how a claimant’s award was worked out because it was processed automatically. CPAG called for more information to be put in claimants’ monthly statements, including a full breakdown of how each payment was calculated. And it demanded the UC online account, through which people manage their claim, is redesigned to put all key decisions in one place.
CPAG Chief Executive Alison Garnham said: “Transparency should be a the heart of a fair social security system. But our research shows Universal Credit claimants do not always understand the amounts they’re getting.
“That is all the more worrying as the number of universal credit claims is set to double this year to 3million. “The scope for misunderstandings, omissions and errors is vast.”
A DWP [BULLSH*T] spokesperson said: “More than 1.8 million claimants receive a monthly statement advising them of their entitlement, how it has been calculated and what to do if they think the payment is incorrect. “Help is also available from work coaches, the freephone Universal Credit helpline, gov.uk and through our ‘Help to Claim’ partnership with Citizens Advice.” DWP TRANSLATION: WE COULDN’T GIVE A TOSS WHAT PROBLEM YOU HAVE WITH UNIVERSAL CREDIT, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN SO GO AND SORT IT OUT YOURSELF!
Meanwhile MPs sound the alarm today over a trial that will move 10,000 existing benefit claimants over to Universal Credit.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee says the DWP must prove it is “up to the job” before beginning the pilot of so-called ‘managed migration’, which kicks off in Harrogate in July.
After the trial, 3million existing benefit claimants will migrate to UC from a delayed start date of summer 2020 up to December 2023.
But Committee chairman Frank Field warned even the pilot scheme must not start until further tests have been carried out to ensure it works. He said the DWP “is yet to prove it’s up to the job” of preventing “messes” that slash people’s income or cut their life chances.
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