MPs have slammed the DWP for with-holding information on the impact of Universal Credit – just 48 hours before work and pensions secretary David Gauke is due to give evidence to the Commons on the roll-out of the ‘reform’.
In an antagonistic move, the work and pensions committee has issued a press statement criticising the DWP for not supplying it with information it requested for a “full understanding of the current picture of the roll-out” with very few statistics in the public domain.
The statement said: “The DWP has failed to respond to the committee’s call for written evidence, or any of the four letters requesting statistics and clarifications of policy sent to the secretary of state over the past six weeks.
“The department was asked to respond to the questions by last Thursday, so that the committee could go into the session with a full understanding of the current picture of the rollout and the protections in place for vulnerable claimants.
“Despite all this, the DWP has failed to provide any new information to the inquiry.
“There are very few statistics in the public domain on universal credit.
“DWP itself has never published data on the length of waits over the statutory, in-built 6 weeks: news of delays of 10, 12 week or longer in receiving payments was heard in evidence to the committee.
“In seeking to get an up-to-date impression of the rollout and its effects at local level, the Committee has written to the 54 MPs whose constituents will be subject to universal credit full service for the first time in October, asking them to report back information.”
Committee chair Frank Field MP further articulated the argument saying he “didn’t know” if the DWP was deliberately concealing information about universal credit or is simply incompetent.
Either way, it is not good enough. This has obvious echoes in the far greater failure of not paying hungry claimants on time,” he said.
One letter is understood to have simply asked if the conference announcement on advance payments was, despite appearances, simply a restatement of existing policy.
Field said: “You’d think they could at least answer that one.
“We expect another announcement on Wednesday about helping councils left short by universal credit’s failure to account for the cost of emergency temporary accommodation, by “rolling-in” some claimants back onto housing benefit.
“This is overdue, but does nothing to address the fundamental problem of people being left for weeks without anything to live on.
“Given everything we have heard, I was surprised that David Gauke opted to proceed with the accelerated rollout.
“I strongly suspect his decision, together with the failure to tell us anything, reflects a culture at the DWP of those most invested in universal credit not telling anyone, including their ministers, bad news.
“The overwhelming picture we are getting is that universal credit as currently configured is very bad news.
“We have heard nothing, to the contrary or otherwise, from those running it.”
The evidence session with Gauke will take place only hours before MPs debate a Labour opposition day motion on universal credit on Wednesday.