Committee publishes results of survey on experiences of benefit system
24 April 2020
The results of a survey to find out people’s experiences of the benefit system during the coronavirus outbreak have today been published by the Work and Pensions Committee.
More than 6,000 people responded to the Committee’s call for submissions from people claiming benefits for the first time, from existing claimants, and from people who need support but have found they are unable to claim any benefits.
The summary of responses has been divided into nine key themes which will inform the Committee’s work and scrutiny of the DWP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Committee is also publishing today a letter from the DWP Permanent Secretary in response to questions from the Chair about Universal Credit Advance payments and telephone waiting times.
Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:
“Hearing from people with first-hand experience of the benefits system is a crucial part of our scrutiny of the DWP. It’s clear from what we’ve heard that DWP staff are working very hard and have made great strides in adapting to the unprecedented strain on the benefits system.
“But we’ve also heard from people who are still facing serious difficulties. Disabled people have been particularly hard hit: their living costs have gone up, but their benefits have stayed the same. And there’s an urgent need for more clarity for people who are self-employed. We hope that Ministers will look carefully at what people have told us, and make changes.
“It would be easier to understand how the system is working in practice if DWP were to publish more information. We’ve asked for quite basic facts—such as how long people are waiting on the phone—but had no answers. Our survey has attempted to fill in some of the gaps, but there is no substitute for the official data. The Department must now follow the very clear instruction of the UK Statistics Authority and make this data available to the public.”
The Committee yesterday questioned Ministers and officials from the DWP on how the Department was handling the unprecedented increase in applications for Universal Credit and its overall approach to supporting people claiming benefits.
The UK Statistics Authority wrote to DWP on 22 April to express concern that it had not published some information about Universal Credit claims during the coronavirus outbreak, despite having previously announced—including to the Committee—that it would do so.