A secret survey being carried out by the DWP looks set to blame claimants themselves for going cold and hungry, Benefits and Work can exclusively reveal.  Poor budgeting skills, rather than poverty levels of benefits payments, are likely to be suggested as the cause of claimant hardship.

This latest survey comes hard on the heels of the publication of a disability benefits report which the DWP tried to suppress and which showed that some claimants could not afford necessities including food and heating.

Individual claimants are being contacted and invited to take part in the new survey. 

At this stage we don’t know how many claimants are involved or how they are being selected.  But the survey is being carried out by one of the UK’s leading polling companies on behalf of the DWP, so the numbers are likely to be considerable.

The introduction to the new survey says it is intended to help the DWP “better understand people’s financial situation and what support they may need”.

The online survey asks a number of questions about what kind of debts claimants have, what effect the debts have had on them and what support they need.

They are asked if they  have ever “fallen behind on, or missed, any payments for domestic bills or credit commitments”.  A list of possible payments they might be behind on includes : a loan from a bank, building society, money lender, friend or relative; a payday loan; a pawnbroker; court fines.

Claimants are also asked the reasons they have borrowed money, with suggestions including: house or car repairs; paying interest on debts; buying gifts; essential items such as food and bills; holidays.

It is the question about the support that struggling claimants need which is most concerning, however.  The full question and list of options is as follows:

What types of help or support, if any, would be most useful in helping you manage your finances?

  • Help with working out what money I have left to spend each/day/week/month.
  • Advice on how to spread my spending so I don’t run out of money
  • Advice on how to reduce my spending
  • Advice on how to reduce my debt
  • Advice on how to increase my income
  • Help with setting up a direct debit/standing order
  • Help with opening a bank account
  • Other (specify)


dwp survey image

In this context, advice to increase my income is most likely to relate to those in employment.  In general claimants cannot increase their income unless there is a benefit they could be claiming that they are not aware of.

What is entirely missing from these options are the ones that would actually make a difference to claimants, such as:

  • Pay benefits at a rate that is enough to live on
  • Remove the 5 week waiting time for UC
  • End the long delays for PIP assessments and WCAs

Because there are no such options, this survey will produce results that say that, of claimants who are in debt:

X% say they need advice on working out what money they have left to spend

X% say they need advice on how to reduce their spending

X% say they need advice on how to reduce their debt

Whilst some people may indeed say in the ‘Other’ box that the help they need is a higher rate of benefits, this will not be listed as a percentage in outcomes as everyone’s answers will be worded differently.

In other words, all the support needs will be around claimants not understanding how to manage their money, rather than it being impossible to manage on the money they receive.

Benefits and Work has made Freedom of Information requests to ask how the claimants taking part in this survey are selected, how many are taking part and whether the results of the report are going to be published.

But the DWP are still smarting from the recent publication of the secret benefits report which showed how disabled claimants are struggling to pay even for necessities.

So if this report allows the DWP to claim that the reason some claimants are unable to eat or heat is that they are failing to budget wisely, then we suspect it will be published as quickly and widely as the DWP can possibly manage.


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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Daz · 1 years ago
    I can't budget anything because that's what I'm getting due to a sanction because of a health condition which is being ramped up by the actions of the dwp,JCP staff!
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    Michelle · 2 years ago
    How dare they!!! No matter how much you balance your money its not enough for food and heating. The DWP dont understand as they have never struggled and are all oblivious to us in poverty as they are all comfy in their big houses with a freezer and fridge overflowing and getting away with everything! Kick us while we down eh?! I cant understand their mentality and in their own Im overpaid with money from the people and The poor should manage their money better! Wtf! Sorry for rantxx
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Elizabeth · 2 years ago
    They just can't grasp that being poor is expensive. If you have to buy cheap and secondhand items they aren't efficient and don’t last long. If you have to go to the supermarket on a bus you can't buy the biggest pack of washing powder or rice. If you are living hand to mouth you can't afford to snap up that thermal t-shirt on offer now which you will need in a few months time. No savings, no access to credit, no flexibility for years and years.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Lynne Blackwell · 2 years ago
    Hi suzanne u can get pip for mental health ive known people get it u put in for it girl and plus 80mg prozac 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Suzanne thomas · 2 years ago
    When I get my benefit once I get my gas and electricity I’m having to top up fortnightly I am left with £13 to buy food I don’t smoke drink or go out but I was told that I have to budget better why in this day and age am I made to feel guilty about spending money on my grandchildren that I actually came off the phone as if I was up to no good I suffer from mental health problems and I was actually told in a letter that although they are aware of my mental health problems they are not enough to get pip I am on 80mg of Prozac sleeping tablets zopiclone and cocodomal can you please tell me how bad your mental health problems have to be before they listen to you or believe you
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    SaOct · 2 years ago
    It’s disgusting the way I’m treated for making a claim for PIP due to serious life long auto immune health issues added to this is recently diagnosed with Diabetes, sleep apnoea & stage 3 cancer, My claim was rejected nearly 10 weeks ago and I was awarded zero points! How do they explain such decision, added to this is the long waiting times of over 3 months to get rejected then another 3 months for mandatory reconsideration then 9-12 months for appeal, I can’t put a word to the way I was treated, It was appalling & I continued to suffer in silence
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    John Alan Jones · 2 years ago
    We should understand and acknowledge that these attitudes by the establishment go back hundreds of years. That is why the workhouses were built: as a punishment to those who could not work. This thinking still prevails today in as far as they refuse to accept the need for foodbanks.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    heather · 2 years ago
    I once asked for budgeting advice hear is the reply it was not helpfull-
    Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received 14 October 2013. You asked;
    I would like to know how the law works out how much a single council tenant needs to live on,
    I would like to know how my money is divide up.. How much is for job search eg- stationary
    stamps, computer use, phone calls bus fares etc.
    Does it allow for a simple hair cut? Is any of it towards a home or mobile phone? how much is
    for coal,electricity, water charges,toiletries,household cleaning products, food,clothing and
    Does it allow for a television licence? I live rural so don't have the option of cheap
    supermarkets and have only the co/op for shopping. I am really struggling I just can't work out
    how to budget and am getting deeper and deeper in debt. Please can you give me a
    breakdown of my ESA so i can see where i am going wrong and try to adjust to your example.

    Benefit rates are not an aggregate of separate amounts for specific items of expenditure such
    as food or fuel charges. The Government has not prescribed what expenses the personal
    allowances cover as it is for each individual or family unit to decide how to spend their benefit,
    in the light of their individual needs and preferences.
    In setting the rates of benefit the Government takes account of the competing demands on
    public expenditure and work incentives.
    There is no specific law which states that you need a certain amount of money to live on. The
    wording "the amount the law says you need to live on” is still used in some of our notification
    The phrase "the amount the law says you need to live on" in fact refers to the “applicable
    amount” of benefit, laid down in law, that can be awarded if a person satisfies the conditions of
    entitlement. This amount may not be the amount that is actually awarded as it may be reduced
    by any income, savings or capital that any person in that award has. It can be further reduced
    if a claimant fails to comply with the conditions attached to receiving that benefit, this is known
    as a sanction or penalty, or if deductions are made direct to third parties such as housing, fuel
    or maintenance charges.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Marian19 · 2 years ago
    Universal credit should be renamed the debt creation tool of the century.Paid 5 weeks in arrears while landlords and utility companies want their share on time creating debt for claimants that they have to pay back. Being forced to pay for broadband to be able to claim benefits and comply with dwp sanctions threats and harrasment adds more pressure on claimants. This is grocely unfair.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Denis King · 2 years ago
    This is a typical Tory way at looking, at those who have to claim benefits, as being in that position, purely because of their own deficiencies. Their attitude is nothing less than scandulous.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Maria Nelson · 2 years ago
    Maria Nelson
    For me is that I am Autistic and I’m not in Debt because I get pip, after refusals for 14 years. My autism was diagnosed in sept and I’m 52.
    I have been reunited with my old TA unit as one of the Autism specialists turned out to be an old army major I had. But the stuff is seasonal and the association functions are costly and have dress protocols. So I’m having to buy some won’t be cheap dresses that I can use for these and feel uncomfortable in dresses as have been sexually abused.
    But UC is not enough to live on. And they’ve done that survey before the cost of living crisis in April “how convenient!!” . If I was on UC I would be in debt and I’d be destitute and I’m semi rural. If I lose my disability pass and pip, I’d be stuffed. We all live in fear of this.

    I’m physically disabled in that I have back problems and I currently have a painful problem with my big toe, that’s irritating my back problem. Taxis will be about £20+ after the fuel hikes hit 1 way to town.

    I’ve campaigned for adult autism services to be centralised and appropriate for older people with disabilities as I’m excluded and all I get offered is arts and my dad abused me around arts and I have repeatedly said I can’t do arts and I hate it and they were 4-5 hour round trips in public transport to attend, So not feasible. It was aimed at young people and mostly intellectually disabled which I’m not. It’s my emotions and communication face to face issues and repetitive behaviours that’s problematic and I need trauma support to right the abuse that my drs gave me because they misdiagnosed me for 22 years,and my family. My support needs to actually be person centred.

    But I’m spending pip income replacing household goods (which I’m buying for longevity too so not cheap), instead of on therapy ie socialising, MH support. and I’m awaiting support on this as I’ve gotten isolated. Since my friends died and others has found girlfriends I’ve got no one, I’ve had no house visitor since 23rd Dec.

    Having not had pip until 2019. I’ve still got my Freezer to replace that’s 26 years old (I put money away for these). As I’m disabled I need to pay 2 to decorate and move my stuff because I can’t physically do it and I need to decorate.
    I’m looking to use quality stuff for it so that once it’s done I won’t need to do it for a long time. I’m looking at £4000 with a rug underlay, the carpets and two peoples labours for both, etc freezer New bed Sofa. I have £2000 saved atm it will take me another 2 years to save the rest as I will be doing the military reconnect after 22 years🥴.
    If they stop my pip I’ll be back to square one and I don’t know how my social stuff will work re the TA stuff as I haven’t properly socialised since 2019 and I’m angry and stressed all the time.
    I have been politically active and I’m doing a video today on where to get financial and other support re debt at 4pM with Resist. (it’s a pre record , so not sure when they will put it out). There is all kinds of advice re debt, fuel poverty, food energy/water saving. furniture.
    Possible help with water rates. Broadband and food stuff. There is lesser known about help in my list. And yes I’m sadly aware some of my stuff won’t be useful to everyone, and I do feel guilty and apologise if they don’t help. But some will. please look out for this.
    The DWP and Tories is here to kill us. And no other reason. The stress put me in psychiatric care sections for near 6 months re UC terrors in 2019. I thought everyone was going to kill me in horrifically painful ways Drs said I had schizophreniform psychosis that was persecutory in nature. I ended up with tardive dyskinesia and movement disorder due to the meds for the condition.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Eleanor Dent · 2 years ago
    Thank you for letting us know. I am going to contact my MP to make her aware of this.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jo · 2 years ago
    What I have never understood is the 2 tier payments scheme - how is an under 25 year supposed to survive on £67 less if they are living in their own accommodation. They have the same bills to pay as everyone else. I understand that under-25s living at home will not have the same expenses. Is this something that B&W could look into?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sandy · 2 years ago
    So the fact that my electricity bill is going to rise from £80 to £157 a month is my fault is it! I am already careful with my budget but I cannot magic an extra £77 out of thin air. We are all electric with storage heaters and already we practice fuel economy. Even had the landlord change our hot water tank to a smaller newer model to help with the costs. Guess we are going to get cold and hungry but it will be my fault for not managing my money. I managed a successful business before I became ill and unable to work. It's rather insulting to think the DWP think I need help with my budget!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Frannie · 2 years ago
    There should be a "none of these" option as well, it is seriously offensive to be implying that everyone needs help to manage their own money. At least there is an "other" option - I am slightly surprised that they have that to be honest, at least it gives us the opportunity to say that what is needed is "an adequate, living income in line with the JRF guidance" or something like that.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Michael · 2 years ago
    Simply would not partake in a rigged, propaganda survey, particularly one where the only options are written by the DWP, thereby producing the results they wish to conclude...
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    shadowpony · 2 years ago
    this survay might be considered unlawful, as was the consultation recently, as it does not give a free box for people to express their views on this question. any servay can be nobbled, and this one has been by the style of question.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Richard · 2 years ago
    There is absolutely no logic in this decision it is just all BLAH BLAH BLAH. The persons affected by this, myself included, should start a campaign to vote this government out at the next election based on the treatment of the people who did not receive the uplift. Also create a petition to be sent the Prime Minister to review the whole situation. That's my opinion.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Krystyna Boswell · 2 years ago
    I received a letter in respect of this survey and declined to respond. I copied it to the local CAB, who had not seen such a letter or knew anyone who had received one. I was quite suspicious because it is being carried out by MORI and I deem anything from government claiming to help 'understand' benefit claimants is likely to be skewed to work against claimants. Having read the article here, I am now very glad I declined to respond. Clearly, government has the funds to pay for this sort of survey, but not to pay claimants the extra income many of us need.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Richard Charlick · 2 years ago
    My advice is to make sure that you eat correctly first and pay whatever you can afford towards utility bills. If we all took a stand on this issue, the millions of people in poverty could change government policy.
    Please get rid of the current pointless jobcentre plus and replace it with something fit for the purpose that delivers jobs and give help to those with disabilities etc., to move into work instead of always siding with the employer.

    I have yet to meet anybody that supports this current government or its predecessors - I have stopped voting because none of the parties does anything to improve a lot of large sections of society. A mass protest at the next general election would be a good idea - spoil ballot papers. Who are these entitled greedy money-grabbing politicians anyway? They are rewarded and treated like royalty is an insult to civilised people.
    Even those 'fortunate' enough not to be claiming benefits have seen a reduction in their earnings over the last 12 years (in real terms) - people per se may not be starving but not exactly progressing with their work. Co-Vid is a convenient excuse - a small section of the society like at times of crisis (war and previous pandemics) have grown fat - while the 'hard working' decent people of this country have sunk in a mire of apathy and hopelessness.
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