DWP accused of failing to help those who unnecessarily signed up for the benefit
'Benefit claimants are being left thousands of pounds a year out of pocket because jobcentre staff are failing to inform them that they will be worse off if they move prematurely to universal credit, MPs have said.
The Commons work and pensions committee accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of failing to inform, protect or compensate claimants who stand to lose up to £400 a month after voluntarily and unnecessarily signing up to universal credit.
When claimants discover that they are worse off, the DWP routinely refuses to allow them to move back on to legacy benefits – a lock known internally as the “lobster pot” – even when they complain that they were incorrectly advised to claim by department officials.
The committee cites the case of a man with anxiety disorder who heard a radio advert for universal credit and assumed he had to make a claim immediately. He and his wife ended up irreversibly £400 a month worse off. “At no stage was he informed that it was not actually necessary for him to make the claim,” the report says.
MPs said universal credit should come with a health warning because it was so difficult for claimants to work out whether it was in their interest to move on to it, and officials took so little care to advise them properly or correct mistakes. All claimants inadvertently left out of pocket should be compensated, they said.
The committee said it had little confidence that all DWP and jobcentre staff had a comprehensive understanding of what moving to universal credit meant for different claimants, and cited evidence that officials were not adequately trained in the new system or properly understood the old system.'
Read more: Poor universal credit advice costs claimants thousands, MPs say