It’s another day of pressure on the DWP, with an Urgent Question in the Commons over the extent of Universal Credit (UC) fraud and an equally urgent series of questions issued by the Work and Pensions Committee on the wider NAO findings of error and fraud across the department.
The Commons question – due for debate after PMQs – is put by the SNP’s Neil Gray.
At the same time, the Work and Pensions Committee has asked whether the department recognises the level of fraud reported and how it has treated frontline staff’s concerns about fraud – including fraudulent claims made without the named claimant’s knowledge or consent.
According to the NAO, 2018-19 accounts showed error and fraud at DWP running at the highest levels since records began.
“In the department’s fantastical predictions, Universal Credit was supposed to reduce error. Instead it is the most error-riddled of all benefits, and it’s only getting worse,” said committee chair Frank Field.
“DWP wasted billions of pounds of public money on error last year alone, but that doesn’t begin to count the human cost.”
Concerns have already been raised about the department’s treatment of claimants who are the victims of fraud.
Such concerns centre on claimants are being prevented from returning to their legacy benefits – even if they are worse off on UC- when the DWP is informed that a claim for UC was fraudulent and made without the claimant’s knowledge or consent.
The committee questions the legal basis for refusing to allow claimants whose legacy benefits have been stopped because of a fraudulent UC claim from returning to their legacy benefits.
And the committee also asks if the DWP will be running a series of advertisements to raise awareness of UC.
A much vilified £200k campaign promoting UC is now under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority.