MPs call out DWP’s ‘dismissive attitude’ regarding ‘unacceptable’ hardship caused by Universal Credit
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has persistently dismissed evidence that Universal Credit is causing hardship for claimants and refuses to measure what it does not want to see, according to a committee of MPs.
A report from the public accounts committee has concluded that the introduction of Universal Credit is causing unacceptable hardship and difficulties for many of the claimants it was designed to help.
And while the DWP is responsive to feedback on its digital systems from staff, the report said the department’s dismissive attitude to real-world experience is failing claimants and causing additional burdens for local organisations.
In 2013 the public accounts committee raised concerns about the DWP’s culture of reporting good news and denying problems that emerge. In further reports in 2015 and 2016 the committee warned about the DWP’s continued lack of transparency.
The committee said it is “hugely regrettable” that the DWP has not heeded these warnings.
It added: “Instead of listening to organisations on the frontline supporting claimants, the Department has continued with its fortress mentality and as a result is failing claimants who struggle to adapt to the way Universal Credit works.”
The committee warned that the hardship is likely to continue if the current problems are not addressed and the funding needed is not forthcoming. It called on the DWP to work with third party organisations to help shape the new programme in light of the real life experiences of recipients.
Committee chair Meg Millier MP said: “This report provides further damning evidence of a culture of indifference at DWP – a Department disturbingly adrift from the real-world problems of the people it is there to support.
“Its apparent determination to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of claimants, frontline organisations and Parliament is of real concern. The culture needs to change.
“A department in denial cannot learn from its mistakes and take the action necessary to address the desperate hardship suffered by many Universal Credit claimants.
“DWP’s dismissive attitude points to a troubling pattern of behaviour in the department – something highlighted by our recent report on errors in Employment and Support Allowance.
“The department’s painfully slow approach to correcting underpayments, years after it accepted responsibility, indicated weaknesses at the highest levels of management.
“As a priority the department must demonstrate a tangible shift in the way it listens and responds to feedback and evidence.
“Meanwhile, the government’s recent announcement of changes to the roll-out of Universal Credit offers no guarantee that the problems facing claimants will be resolved.
“We will be watching Monday’s Budget carefully and, in its formal response to this report, expect government to take meaningful action on our recommendations.”