Benefit Safeguards - policy issues
The DNS FOI can be found here: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/?ACT=39&fid=11&aid=1815_5fnFIhx4B0Vtvc5gbMOs&board_id=1
It includes an example of an IPR recommendation relating to DWP failing to identify vulnerability. This adds to the multiple Peer Review recommendations on the same issue.
Also from a DNS story I’ve come across this: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey/adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey-survey-of-mental-health-and-wellbeing-england-2014
“Some groups in the population were more likely than others to report these thoughts and behaviours, such as those who lived alone or were out of work (either unemployed or economically inactive). Benefit status identified people at
particularly high risk: two-thirds of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) recipients had suicidal thoughts (66.4%) and approaching half (43.2%) had made a suicide attempt at some point.”
Identifying vulnerability before UC managed migration is likely to be a key issue. I’ve attached some interesting extracts from recent evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee…[ Edited: 22 Oct 2018 at 11:27 am by Owen_Stevens ]
- evidence_WPSC_Oct_18.docx (File Size: 21KB - Downloads: 160)
More on identifying vulnerability among claimants, this time from PAC (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/1183/1183.pdf) :
“The Department is failing vulnerable claimants because it places too much reliance on the discretion of its work coaches to identify and manage the needs of people requiring extra support.”
” The Department is not able to monitor the treatment of vulnerable claimants, such as those with mental health problems, as it does not collect data on these groups within its systems. The Department is working on developing a ‘text-mining’ approach which it plans to use to obtain management information on different vulnerability groups. However this approach is reliant on the text that work coaches write in a claimant’s journal, and will not provide the Department with clear data to allow it to measure what challenges certain vulnerable groups face or how well its solutions are working for them.
Recommendation: In its response to this report, the Department must set out, what more it will do to ensure that work coaches are well equipped to provide the right support packages for claimants including those with health needs and other vulnerabilities, and how it will measure and ensure this is happening in practice.”
It seems that the department acknowledge that their staff have been failing to identify vulnerability:
” The Department explained it had decided not to build the ability to flag vulnerabilities more quantitatively in its systems, as ‘markers’ in the legacy systems are often not updated, or are not removed when they should be.”
The Work & Pensions Select Committee have also heard about the need for better identification of vulnerable claimants (and the need to resource this) (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1667/1667.pdf) :
“The Trussell Trust favoured formalising such an approach by placing a statutory duty on local authorities to identify need amongst claimants, and to provide PBS and ADS to all who might benefit.124 We heard, however, that this approach would depend on the Department sharing information on vulnerable claimants with local authorities—and ensuring they have the resources fully to support all of those claimants who might benefit. At present,
the Department’s approach to resourcing Universal Support provision does not cover all of the costs incurred by providers.125” They go on to recommend that JCP have a formal “support conversation” with claimants.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee report on benefit sanctions can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/955/955.pdf
- removing everyone with LCW from the conditionality and sanctions regime. It also recommends this for people found not to have LCW but who can present a med cert and for UC claimants awaiting a WCA.
- introducing better joint working protocols (modelled on existing examples) between JCP and care leavers’ personal advisers. These joint protocols were referred to in the oral evidence (see earlier post). I’ve managed to track down some further information on Lancashire and Trafford’s protocols on p.12 here: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/guidance-for-care-leaver-offer_1.pdf
- introducing a flag to indicate disability and care leaver status.
- that sanctions are cancelled when a claimant’s change in circumstance means they are no longer subject to the requirement that led to their sanction in the first place.
- recommends better conversations between work coaches and claimants aimed at identifying vulnerability
- an early warning of sanctions. The warning must automatically trigger a meeting between the claimant and work
coach. At this meeting the work coach must ensure the claimant fully understands the rules around conditionality and sanctions. They must also review the Claimant Commitment, including considering whether any easements should be applied
- more information provided in sanction referrals and extra checks on claimants who do not acknowledge a preliminary decision to impose a sanction
SSAC have published their report on the draft Universal Credit managed migration regulations: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/753714/draft-universal-credit-managed-migration-regulations-2018-report.pdf
SSAC recommend that the test and learn phase should prioritise developing strategies for identifying and supporting through the managed migration those who might find it more challenging. DWP say that they accept this recommendation although it is not clear how their approach will change from that taken so far (and criticised by the NAO: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/9149/P15/#60342).
It’s clear from the response to the report that DWP reject calls to migrate claimants without the need for a fresh claim (as called for by CPAG) but instead say that the “focus will be on safeguarding claimants and ensuring a smooth transition with uninterrupted support” and that “We do not underestimate the challenge that managed migration represents and we are working closely with stakeholders and claimants to design the best solution.”[ Edited: 8 Nov 2018 at 12:06 pm by Owen_Stevens ]
CPAG’s submission to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee regarding the UC managed
migration regs can be found here: https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/Secondary-Legislation-Scrutiny-Committee/Session 2017-19/CPAG letter to SLSC on UC managed migration regulations.pdf
It covers DWP failures to follow current guidance on vulnerability and problems with complex needs plans
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Link doesn’t quite work - so you can get here
The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee report regarding the UC managed migration regs can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldseclegb/244/24404.htm
I’ve picked out a few sections on vulnerability:
“25.DWP states that the Regulations provide the framework for the managed migration process, but that there is flexibility on how this is to be delivered. A key feature of the piloting phase will be working with stakeholders. The EM sets out the four initial work streams that DWP will be focusing on:
“(1) how we create a successful claimant experience, exploring how we understand our claimants and their needs;
(2) how we deliver that experience, including what role delivery partners and external organisations might play in migration;
(3) how we communicate and engage with claimants, engaging effectively with different types of claimants; and
(4) how we identify and support our most vulnerable claimants.”
26.We welcome DWP’s stated intention to continue discussions with stakeholders and to pilot the arrangements before migrating the bulk of the existing claimants. It is not clear to us, however, whether DWP should be seeking provision to enable implementation of the whole of the “managed migration” programme when so many practicalities appear to be unresolved. The House may wish to invite the Minister to provide further justification.”
“31.The submissions welcome the modifications that DWP has made following consultation, including taking a discretionary power to grant an extension to prevent a claimant’s benefits being stopped “where there is good reason to do so” (Regulation 45). They question, however, how that power will work in practice. There is concern that DWP staff may be unable to identify someone with an “invisible problem”, such as a mental health condition, who is struggling to engage with the process, and that vulnerable people will lose their benefits as a result.
32.In her letter, the Secretary of State explains the Department’s intention to include a four to six month warm-up period to advise claimants on preparations that they should make prior to the notification period.17 The testing period will also include extensive stakeholder engagement on how they will support claimants within the three month window to claim Universal Credit.
33.The groups that have written to us are experienced in this field and their submissions warn that there will be a significant number of those with health problems or disabilities who will only notice when the money has stopped. The House may wish to seek assurance from the Minister that there will be adequate emergency help and additional resource available to assist this particularly vulnerable group through the migration process.”
01/02/2019 update - Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee states that the managed migration approach to vulnerable claimants remains an unresolved issue https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldseclegb/273/27304.htm[ Edited: 1 Feb 2019 at 10:14 am by Owen_Stevens ]
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Safeguarding guidance for Work Programme providers under 2018 contract published on gov.uk (chapter 4b dated 9 Apri l2018).
New SSAC correspondence on the Universal Credit (Managed Migration) Regulations 2018 can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-managed-migration-regulations-2018-ssac-correspondence?utm_source=0cf195b4-dbbd-4900-af7a-0c2e216f9e58&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate
Among other things it points out that ‘safeguards’ are not included in legislation and asks the department to review that position – this echoes the points made in CPAG’s submission to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (see above) which made the point that:
“Our experience of the DWP’s ability to identify and support people in vulnerable circumstances does not give us confidence that this will be done effectively. Indeed the department’s failure to appropriately identify and respond to vulnerability in its dealings with claimants has been raised a number of times in DWP Peer Reviews which are carried out after a serious incident or death. It is particularly risky that the proposed arrangements to identify and support vulnerable claimants have not been published to date so cannot be scrutinised, and that once developed they will be included in guidance without the force of law.
The current universal credit system relies on judgements in certain areas which used to have more protection in law, for example setting work search conditions for claimants with children or disabilities, and our experience is that this shift has reduced protections for claimants. Protections need to be enshrined in law to be meaningful and effective. “
and goes on to provide numerous examples from CPAG’s casework of DWP not following exiisting benefit safeguards guidance
Work and Pensions Select Committee report - “Universal Credit: Support for disabled People”
Includes the following on safeguards and identifying vulnerability:
“21. So-called “managed” migration will see over a million ESA claimants move onto Universal Credit. Amongst them will be some of the most vulnerable claimants the Department supports: people who have been on benefits for long time, have little in the way of a safety net, and have severe disabilities and health conditions. The Department says that it will safeguard claimants moving from ESA to Universal Credit. But it has provided next to no detail on how it will deliver those safeguards and ensure no one’s benefits are stopped before they have made a successful claim for Universal Credit.
The Department intends, throughout the process of moving claimants from legacy benefits to Universal Credit, to identify people who are “vulnerable” and provide extra flexibilities and support to them if necessary. But it does not collect data that would enable it to do this consistently, and its engagement with front-line organisations that could help it do so has so far been limited.
23. We recommend that throughout the pilot stage for managed migration the Department trial different ways of systematically collecting data on claimant vulnerability. Given the lack of data it holds currently, this should begin from the principle that all former ESA claimants who do not manage to claim by the deadline that the Department sets them are vulnerable. We also recommend that the Department immediately begin its engagement with local authorities and support organisations such as Citizens Advice over the design of “managed” migration and their role in it. This should include planning for how support services—such as Universal Support—will be promoted to claimants and funded through managed migration.
24. We recommend the Department build its capacity to identify existing Universal Credit claimants who have potentially complex needs. This might include, for example, introducing a marker for disability and health conditions under Universal Credit. It should not be limited, as the Department’s current “text mining” approach is, to analysing the information that claimants choose to divulge to their Work Coach and that the Work Coach decides to record. We also recommend the Department shares, in response to this report, any internal assessment carried out of its “text mining” exercise.
25. We further recommend that the Department share with the Committee, and with Citizens Advice, the existing data that it holds on claimant vulnerabilities and its plans for developing and further sharing this as managed migration rolls out.”
I’ve just come across this (from 2010): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-welfare-that-works
Contains the following (on p.29): “Most people want to find work and will never be in the position of facing a sanction. [...] We will also maintain safeguards for vulnerable people and ensure that mental health and substance abuse problems are taken into consideration.”
Latest treasury minutes provide government response to PAC report on rolling out UC, touches on identifying vulnerability
There is some good news to come out of this in that the DWP have committed to encouraging further uptake of joint working protocols between LAs and JCPs for care leavers. This is obviously positive for care leavers and I see no reason why this model couldn’t extend to other claimants with complex needs.
The response adds that “local processes will be put into place to ensure contact is made with the young person’s personal adviser in the event of a sanction being considered. This will allow all relevant information to be taken into account”. Again this is really good news and exactly what I would like to see for other claimants with vulnerabilities and complex needs, if it can be applied to one group then there is no reason it cannot be applied to others.
The response goes on to state that “Existing guidance allows staff to proactively disclose information to third parties, such as social services or the police, where they are satisfied a vulnerable person faces risks to their welfare or safety. This would include care leavers facing a possible sanction”. This refers to ‘proactive disclosure’ set out in the ‘alternative enquiry’ guidance (along with my criticisms compared to previous guidance) which can be found here: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/12349/#63366
Obviously, it goes without saying that all of this should be included in regs rather than guidance but we need to work with what we have.[ Edited: 12 Feb 2019 at 10:02 am by Owen_Stevens ]
The DWP response to the sanctions inquiry (see https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/government-has-failed-utterly-to-grasp-the-seriousness-of-its-counter-produ) includes the following:
“And any contracted provider of a mandatory work-related programme be given the ability not to refer a claimant for a sanction should the claimant provide good reason for failing to comply with a conditionality requirement. (Paragraph 111)
70.The Government does not accept the recommendation to give providers of the Work and Health Programme (WHP) the ability to not refer a claimant for a sanction if they have given good reason. Participants in the WHP are subject to the same decision making process as those claimants being supported in Jobcentres once a referral for a sanction has been made.”
This is a real shame, if DWP wanted to then this would be possible - especially given that Work Programme Provider guidance used to include a process which enabled them not to refer vulnerable claimants for sanction (see high level must do’s in this document: http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/?ACT=39&fid=3&aid=1312_joIQWtoxfaEyWOWjHaFD&board_id=1 )
For those interested in the changes to Work Programme Provider vulnerability processes over time see p.8 onwards of this document: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/?ACT=39&fid=3&aid=1495_9YxD5wqrDu75nU9kTkmg&board_id=1[ Edited: 12 Feb 2019 at 10:23 am by Owen_Stevens ]