Last week’s budget gave billions of pounds to the DWP to push more claims online, force legacy benefits claimants onto UC and provide ‘job finding support’ to disabled claimants, who will face an arbitrary and unmonitored ‘tailored’ sanctions regime.
Whilst last week’s budget had nothing at all in it for disabled claimants, the DWP did very well out of it.
They are getting £2.6 billion between now and 2025 for “digital activity to support the delivery of benefits and transform how customers interact with the welfare system.”
No further details of what this transformation will look like have yet been given. But it is likely that at the heart of it will be attempts to cut costs by moving as much of the process of claiming benefits online as possible.
For some claimants this may well be an improvement, with less need to deal with paper forms or attend face-to-face meetings. For others, with limited online access or knowledge, the change is likely to place even more barriers in the way of a successful claim.
In addition, the DWP are getting £554 million to “support the transition of legacy claimants onto UC” which it now intends to complete by March 2025.
The DWP will be focusing on a “voluntary” move from legacy benefits such as ESA onto UC throughout the rest of this year and 2022.
However, the recent Independent Case Examiner annual report pointed out how many of the complaints they deal with involve the DWP wrongly advising people to move onto UC and making them worse-off and with no way back onto their old benefits.
“We see a steady stream of cases raising concern about misdirection in transitioning to UC. A factor in all of these is that DWP staff should not advise claimants as to which benefit to claim . . .”
From 2023 onwards, the DWP will focus on forcing the remainder of legacy benefits claimants onto UC.
We would strongly advise claimants to get reliable advice from an agency you trust and to whom you can give all the details of your personal circumstances before voluntarily moving onto UC.
We have a 20 page guide to moving from ESA to UC in the members area of the site.
The budget also included £156 million “to provide job finding support for disabled people, with a focus on additional work coaches”.
Whilst the provision of job finding support will be welcomed by many disabled claimants, it will in the future come with sanctions threats that are “tailored up” to individual claimants. The new scheme applies to claimants of both new style ESA and UC, if they have limited capability for work or are waiting for a WCA.
The new regime carries with it the possibility that work coaches will be able to load more sanctions onto claimants with health conditions they have a prejudice against. The DWP have already admitted they are not monitoring which claimants are subject to sanctions threats.