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25 March, 2020 Open access

Verification process for universal credit is facing ‘capacity challenges’ as almost half a million claims are made in just nine days

While online journey is holding up 'brilliantly well', DWP Permanent Secretary tells Select Committee he doesn't know how the next stages are going to progress

The DWP's Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield has confirmed that the verification process for universal credit is facing 'capacity challenges' as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with almost half a million claims having been made in just nine days.

Giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee this morning - covering the DWP's response to the outbreak - Mr Schofield confirmed that the Department is implementing its business continuity plan in response to the 'unprecedented crisis' involving - 

Highlighting that there have been 477,000 claims for universal credit in the last nine days, Mr Schofield said - 

'The online journey is holding up brilliantly well [but] I don't know how the next stages in the journey are going to progress.'

In addition, acknowledging that the verification process - required after an online claim has been submitted - is facing 'capacity challenges', Mr Schofield clarified that there are two methods which can be used - 

However, Mr Schofield added that - 

'... this is a rapidly evolving situation, we don't know what the numbers are going to look like over the coming days ...'

The Work and Pensions Committee evidence session can be viewed at

Stop press (27 March 2020): a transcript of the Work and Pensions Committee Oral evidence session, The DWP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, HC 178 Wednesday (25 March 2020) is now available from