Benefit Safeguards - policy issues
A report from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute recommends enabling people to turn off
conditionality during a mental health crisis - http://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/benefits/
The DWP have responded to the WPSC report on support for disabled people: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1998/199803.htm
See also the report from Rightsnet: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/DWP-to-explore-Proof-of-Concept-for-policy-that-universal-credit-cla
This includes the following:
agrees to trial different ways of systematically collecting data on claimant vulnerability, and begin from the principle that all former ESA claimants who do not manage to claim by the migration deadline are vulnerable;
agrees to builds its capacity to identify existing universal credit claimants who have potentially complex needs;
As reported by Rightsnet the DWP has outlined a plan to use stakeholders and partners to help it ensure that people move safely from legacy benefits to universal credit: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/DWP-outlines-plan-to-use-stakeholders-and-partners-to-help-it-ensure-that
See letter and presentation from Neil Couling attached
- UC_Managed_Migration_Progress_Update_Slides_-_06.03_.19_.pdf (File Size: 413KB - Downloads: 512)
- redacted_190318_Dear_Colleague_Letter_-_Thank_You_from_Neil_Couling.pdf (File Size: 1974KB - Downloads: 550)
Continuing problems among DWP staff identifying vulnerability and applying vulnerability guidance
The families have started a petition calling for an inquiry into these deaths (including failure to follow DWP safeguarding procedures): https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/six-families-back-petition-to-mps-calling-for-inquiry-into-dwp-benefit-deaths/
The government have responded to the Jodey Whiting petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/243337?fbclid=IwAR2Flmh0wE_Z1N4RelPfWgiMJa8Rqson3hQgwXTwqDNttm-GQ11PPyblzQo
The response includes the following on benefit safeguards:
“[...] The DWP supports people with a wide variety of needs and staff are trained to identify signs of vulnerability which may include offering extra help with people’s benefits should they need it. The safeguarding of claimants is a priority and the department has a number of processes in place, including a home visiting service to check on people’s well-being, or offering help with completing forms, as well as signposting to specialist support provided by other organisations we work closely with.
Claimants of working age who wish to apply for Employment and Support Allowance because their health or disability impacts on their ability to work are usually required to attend a Work Capability Assessment. If a claimant fails to attend the assessment, our decision makers must check the claimant’s records for any history of mental health or other vulnerability. Where there are issues noted on the claimant’s record, decision makers are required to consider whether the claimant would benefit from a home visit.
We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable claimants [...]”
rightsnet writer / editor
Total Posts: 2731
Joined: 14 March 2014
Neil Couling has responded to a letter from the Public Accounts Committee outlining how the Department equips universal credit work coaches to identify and support customers with complex needs - added as a stop press to this story - Public Accounts Committee asks DWP to outline the ‘step change’ it has made in its attitude to listening to feedback from stakeholders
Welfare rights adviser - Social Inclusion Unit, Swansea
Total Posts: 280
Joined: 17 June 2010
It is hot here so I am unsure if I really read ‘senior responsible owner’ or am hallucinating
As for care leavers it doesn’t appear to be helping in complex cases, we have repeated phone calls from a leaving care worker about a young lady who was taken into care due to abuse from her family, she is an EU national and for obvious reasons cannot get evidence from her father of his work history. A vulnerable person with complex needs and social services are having to continue to support her because UC will not sort out her claim. Maybe Mr Couling is responsible for this and many other equally bad situations.
Article reviewing attempts by third parties to make DWP aware of ‘complex needs’ among universal credit (UC) claimants
Citizens Advice Bridport & District
Total Posts: 574
Joined: 9 January 2017
This article alone is worth the subs as a CPAG Rights member!
We have been trying to set up a vulnerable clients formalised agreement/system with JCP since 1st December 2017, MP involved July 2018, another meeting earlier this Summer 2019, told its down to DWP legal dept.
Now nearly 2 years later, its great to see the examples in the article.
But really frustrating the lack of progress down here, we are not so much lagging behind, as getting left behind by.
SSAC report on claimant commitment: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ssac-occasional-paper-21-the-effectiveness-of-the-claimant-commitment-in-universal-credit
The following quotes may be of interest:
“Our evidence again points to a range of possible underlying factors: lack of confidence in applying discretion for conditionality requirements for people with physical and mental health problems and a lack of awareness of how or when to apply discretion appropriately.”
“We found evidence of Jobcentres working in partnership with third party organisations to build up the skills and knowledge of work coaches around claimants with complex needs. [...] In Newcastle, some Jobcentres are piloting a multi-team support approach for homeless claimants, which helps work coaches define tailored commitments that align with additional support plans the claimant may have in place”
“[W]e also found evidence of commitments not being developed and used effectively when measured against the principles set out above. In particular, we found a lack of consistency in the approach to tailoring of claimant commitments and a range of issues that could lead to significant detriment, particularly to claimants in vulnerable circumstances. We saw some excellent examples of this. But we also saw Jobcentres which did not appear to approach this with much energy or ambition.
The challenge is we don’t know the true scale of the problems that are highlighted in our evidence, nor where they are happening or whether they are becoming more or less frequent. That’s because DWP doesn’t collect data centrally on the quality of claimant commitments. Instead, Jobcentres take a risk-based approach to quality assuring commitments through random sampling and team leader observations of work coaches. However, our evidence suggests observations are not happening consistently and where they do happen, DWP systems don’t enable data collection. This means Jobcentres have to create their own data collection systems to assess and monitor the quality of commitments, which takes time away from working with claimants.”
“Complaints about the DWP ‘too often’ show that it has not followed steps to safeguard vulnerable claimants, Independent Case Examiner’s annual report also says recent discussions have provided some reassurance of improvement but she will continue to pay close attention”
“And next we plan to look at how Government engages with disabled people in designing and monitoring policy and practice more broadly. We know that policies and services generally improve with the full involvement of citizens and therefore will be looking at how Government engages disabled people both in social security policy development and in designing and testing implementation. We will seek learning from a range of organisations, including Disabled People’s Organisations, other government departments and public services, to explore whether there are further ways that DWP could effectively involve disabled people in its development of policy and practice. We will have an open call for evidence, so do consider sharing evidence, ideas and experience with us.
We also look forward to scrutinising draft regulations arising from the new Government’s agenda, in particular its manifesto commitment to “do more to make sure that Universal Credit works for the most vulnerable”.”
Some extracts from the second link:
Assistant coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock, who heard the inquest, was told that DWP stopped Graham’s employment and support allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face work capability assessment (WCA) on 31 August 2017.
The inquest heard that it was standard DWP procedure to go ahead with stopping the benefits of a claimant marked on the system as vulnerable after two failed safeguarding visits.
The assistant coroner said: “There simply is not sufficient evidence as to how he was functioning, however, it is likely that his mental health was poor at this time – he does not appear to be having contact with other people, and he did not seek help from his GP or support agencies as he had done previously.”
She concluded in the narrative verdict, delivered last June, that the “safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.
She said: “He needed the DWP to obtain more evidence [from his GP] at the time his ESA was stopped, to make a more informed decision about him, particularly following the failed safeguarding visits.”
She said that a consultant psychiatrist had told the inquest “that Errol was vulnerable to life stressors” and that it was “likely that this loss of income, and housing, were the final and devastating stressors, that had a significant effect on his mental health”.
But she decided not to write a regulation 28 report demanding changes to DWP’s safeguarding procedures to “prevent future deaths” because the department insisted that it was already completing a review of its safeguarding, which was supposed to finish last autumn.
News stories on the death of Errol Graham by the guardian and DRUK
Various parliamentary questions relating to benefit safeguarding statistics: