Called out over Universal Credit satisfaction rates that seemingly didn’t differentiate between live and full service, the DWP says: “An answer is being prepared”.
Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions committee, has used written Parliamentary questions to probe the DWP on the overall satisfaction rate among claimants for both UC services.
Last month, Field secured an initial answer from DWP minister Alok Sharma who said the ministry no longer differentiated between live and full service as the number of live service cases is reducing rapidly, and because both services operate within the same policy framework.
Field followed up to question:
- Whether it was the research contractor or the Department who made the decision to report without differentiating between live and full service
- For what purpose live service was included as a separate sample to full service in the claimant survey at the beginning of the 2017-18 year
- Whether live service and full service have been reported separately internally for 2017-18; what the total cost was of the claimant survey research conducted for 2017-18
- What plans DWP had to compare the full-service findings of the 2018-19 claimant survey with the full service findings from the 2017-18 survey
- What questions within the survey questionnaire have not been reported within the annual report and data tables
Sharma’s written response said: “The Department for Work and Pensions has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period.
“An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”
Written questions also saw Sharma quizzed on what evidence DWP had that claimants under 25 had lower living costs.
Sharma said a “much simpler” age-related structure aligned the rates for under 25s by setting a clear benefit rate reflecting the lower wages that younger workers typically receive.
“This is intended to maintain the incentive for younger people to find work.
Additional amounts that are added to provide for particular needs such as children and disability are paid at a standard rate,” Sharma said.
On how many and what proportion of full service UC claimants who have had their claims stopped re-apply the following month, in the latest period for which figures are available Sharma released latest figures showing 16,400 claimants re-applying within 30 days with July 2018 as the closure month and 19,000 in August.
The proportion of closed claims was 21% for each month, with figures rounded to nearest 100 and 1%.
Sharma said the available stats included claims closed at any stage of the claim and those that fall within the re-claim process – where claimants who meet certain conditions and return to UC within six months of their previous award ending, can make a claim under an easier reclaim process.
The stats also showed the majority of the reclaims in August last year had their initial claim closed because of a split in a couple claim (28%); the claimant making an additional claim linked by National Insurance Number resulting in the original claim being closed (26%); and because the Claimant did not accept their Claimant Commitment (22%).
A question on estimates as to what length of time was required for new claimants to complete the online UC application form was met with: “The information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.”
Instead Sharma cited help options available through Universal Support and related services.