Evidence of DWP cover-up and incompetence in relation to the forced transition from legacy benefits to universal credit (UC) was revealed, as the social security advisory committee called for external scrutiny of the “scary” process this month.

Members of the social security advisory committee gave evidence to the commons work and pensions committee earlier this month as part of the committee’s inquiry into managed migration to UC.

One MP on the committee revealed the bizarre degree to which a report on the initial Harrogate pilot for managed migration has been covered-up.

The Harrogate pilot started in summer 2019 on a very small scale and was abandoned in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

MP Steve McCabe revealed that copies of the report on the pilot had been deposited in the House of Commons and the House of Lords Libraries, but they were entirely redacted with the exception of the words “moved to Universal Credit” and “user research”.

McCabe told the committee : “I do not want to get into conspiracy fantasies and start accusing Ministers of cover-ups or anything like that, but what on earth can be in the Harrogate report that means that we are not allowed to see it?”

In reality, redacting all but 5 words from a report is, by definition, a cover-up. 

Whether there was anything in the report that actually needed to be covered-up or whether it is simply that under former DWP secretary of state Therese Coffey, the DWP became addicted to secrecy for its own sake, is something we cannot know at this point.

McCabe went on to illustrate the dangers of the transfer to UC and the degree of DWP incompetence using two examples from his own caseload.

“One was a woman who had a series of illnesses and was awaiting the result of various tests. She was both physically in a very bad way and psychologically quite distressed. At that point, she failed to respond properly to a migration notice. She did not have a computer at home. She attempted to phone the Department. She could not get to speak to anyone. She sent a recorded delivery letter, but Department thinks it did not receive it. She went weeks and weeks without money.

“The second was a 19-year-old boy who had severe learning difficulties and autism. After he left school and his tax credits and disability element ended, he was required to apply for Universal Credit. His mum attempted to register him. That seemed to take several weeks. They omitted to tell her that she needed to complete a work capability form. That resulted in a further 16-week delay. Then the staff at the DWP insisted on speaking directly to her son on the phone, except he is non-verbal. Surely, we need a better service to cater for these kinds of eventualities.”

Charlotte Pickles, a member of SSAC, told the MPs how important SSAC believed some sort of external scrutiny of the “scary” migration process is.

“Our view is that external scrutiny—so independent, transparent and open scrutiny—is absolutely essential to the success of the programme. That is for two reasons that I think we made clear in our report.

“First, that sort of scrutiny will support an effective programme. If the only thing the Department can rely on is internal management data and that feedback loop that should be, and we hope will be, very effective, they are going to have gaps in the insights. They are going to have gaps in their understanding of how it is landing with claimants and the different groups that we have already discussed this morning. If you want to be as successful as possible—which the Department does want to be—external scrutiny and input is an important part of delivering a successful programme.

 “Secondly, why it is so important is because we are all very aware that for some groups, in particular, UC is quite a scary proposition. If you are sitting on a legacy benefit or you are a tax credit claimant, you possibly, likely, in certain groups, are very nervous and possibly reluctant to make that move to UC. By having the external input, you get a greater public assurance that the system is working and operating and it does have the best interests of claimants at heart. Both for effectiveness and public confidence in the programme, that external input and oversight is important.”

At this point, however, there is no indication that the DWP will be any more open to external scrutiny of the managed migration process than they are to any other part of their secretive machinations.

You can read the full transcript of the oral evidence hearing on the parliament website.


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    Doni · 1 years ago
    I went from ESA to UC and they stopped my ESA and failed 3 times to adjudicate my assessment to find out if i was entitled to the capability to work payment, and also, as I have progressed throughout the year, they have lost my original application form for the above, and cannot provide it to the tribunal judge to look at.
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    J · 1 years ago
    That first example case could have theoretically been me as I went through the exact same problems with an added bonus of them making mistakes and overpaying ESA then without any warning sending bailiffs and refusing to take the lump-sum payment over the phone and then further refusing to give me a receipt! I only found out because I rang again to notify them of the overpayment still in my account! 
    Few months after compliance Officer checking on me! Even though it was all paid back in full on my insistence to pay it back in a lump-sum as I'd notified them previously to be ignored!
    Then of course your benefits are scrutinised and made difficult because they have made you appear to be fraudulent!! Reviews were made extremely difficult for me. Brought forward early etc...
    Plus they also took money out whilst I was on the phone to them and looking at my account...when I complained on the phone it magically reappeared whilst complaining! 
    Had underhand problems with PIP too following a tribunal! 
    Extremely stressful and has made my illnesses so much more worse 😥
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    d · 1 years ago
    uc is not kind to people with disibilities at all. apperntly if you call the helpline they have a script and if it not followed they just say they can't help.

    so if your not good with computers your doomed.

    but this is the same group that won't release the report on sancantion effectiveness because they know it doesn't work and would make them look bad 
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    ROGER SMITH · 1 years ago
    The number of people who are on legacy benefits is quite considerable. I have also learned that the old DWP minister Coffey has ripped up the policy of bringing the migration issue back to the House of commons after 10,000 had been switched over to UC. I have also heard that they are going to go hell for leather. The words of the DWP not mine. 
    I am on Tax credits and have health issues. I have been told by the C.A.B that when i am transferred over to UC i may not get any money for more than 7 weeks. At the moment i am paid weekly. I am starting to put a small amount aside otherwise i am going to be in serious difficulty with creditors and household bills. And it is going to be a very stressful time for me and others in my situation.
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    Cc · 1 years ago
    I was on ESA support group- i moved house to be closer to disabled sons college- nothing else had changed.To claim housing benefit i was forced onto UC- they have halved my money- sons tax credits with disability premium has stopped and UC have NOT included him in my claim - despite being in full- time education &on PIP hes been told to sign up for his own UC- which he was told at ID face to face he probably wont get it or he will have to give up college- hes 19 and only has till next summer there anyway- he will still be studying after he turns 20 yet theyll stop all his money again.if he gets any.I now have only child benefit to keep him on.No one has mwntioned he needs to fill in a work capability form as well!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Andy · 1 years ago
      @Chloe If you move within the local authority you are currently living in, you will *not* have to move to UC to claim for housing costs.
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      Chloe · 1 years ago
      @Cc Hi, I’m sorry to hear this. Did you move to another local authority or within the same one? I’m trying to work out if a move within same local authority will affect me on the same way 
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    george · 1 years ago
    Very interesting listening , particularly the part where it was said a transcript of how a selected group of claimants faired in moving over to UC was totally redacted except for the title of the document !! Hmmmmm !
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