Evidence has emerged that the DWP believes that universal credit (UC) is dead. Officially the department insists that ‘the vast majority’ of around 7 million recipients will move onto the benefit during 2016-17. Privately, however, the department is no longer predicting that there will be any universal credit appeals between now and 2019.
The revelation was made in the April edition of the Judicial Information Bulletin –which goes out to all tribunal members - by Judge Robert Martin, the outgoing president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits tribunals.
Several times a year the DWP provides the tribunals service with estimates of how many appeals are likely to be generated in the next five years. This is vital for the tribunals service, who need to be able to plan how many staff to recruit and how many venues to provide for hearings. The DWP give estimates for each different type of benefit, as tribunals may be constituted differently depending on the benefit involved.
The Judge reveals that in its April 2013 forecast the DWP estimated that there would be 1,355 UC appeals in 2013-14 and 77,926 UC appeals in 2014-15. In fact, by the end of March 2014, due to the tiny number of claimants who have been able to claim UC, there had been just three appeals.
The DWP made further forecasts in December 2013 and most recently in April 2014. In the last of these the DWP estimated that there would be:
393,000 appeals in 2014-15
456,000 appeals in 2015-16
622,000 appeals in 2016-17
553,000 appeals in 2017-18
340,000 appeals in 2018-19
However, Judge Martin reveals that none of these appeals are now predicted by the DWP to be for universal credit.
It is not credible that the DWP now imagines that no claimant of UC will appeal in the next five years. The only reasonable explanation, therefore, is that the DWP now expect there to be so few people receiving the benefit that the number of appeals generated will be too small to make provision for.
In other words, when planning for the future in the real world rather than the world of departmental spin and propaganda, the DWP are making no provision whatsoever for UC.
The DWP seem unlikely to be grateful to Judge Martin for his disclosure, one of several in the article ‘Dark matter’ which can be downloaded from the Rightsnet discussion forum