The DWP has refused to follow any recommendations by the Commons work and pensions committee designed to help claimants through the cost of living crisis.
The simplest suggestions made by MPs was that the DWP pause making deductions from benefits where a claimant owes the department money, perhaps because of an overpayment or loan.
This would have cost the DWP very little, but made a dramatic difference to claimants struggling to make ends meet as prices rocket. It is a measure that was introduced during the pandemic and one which would be very easy to reinstate.
The DWP’s bizarre excuse for not doing so is that it is not ‘in the claimant’s best interest’ because if debt recovery was reintroduced after next April’s benefits uprating claimants ‘may feel no better off as a result’.
In other words, it’s better to make claimants repay debts whilst they cannot possibly afford to than to wait until their benefits have been increased.
Other measures recommended by the committee and rejected by the DWP included changing the way benefits are uprated so that it can be done more quickly when there is spiralling inflation. They also suggested a formal review of whether current benefit levels are adequate and a review of the benefit cap.
The chair of the committee, Stephen Timms MP, issued a statement saying:
“The Government’s rejection of our recommendations at a time when so many families are continuing to feel real pain from rising prices is disappointing. While a package of support on energy bills is promised, the appointment of a new Secretary of State presents a fresh opportunity to consider whether a change of approach at the DWP could also offer extra help for people through the benefits system.”