William Eichler 19 July 2019

Universal Credit appeals blocked by ‘error and failures’, charity finds

Universal Credit claimants who suspect the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made a mistake in their award are too often blocked by ‘error and failures’ in the system, a new study finds.

When a UC claimant disagrees with a DWP decision, they must request an internal review – called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – before they can appeal to an independent tribunal.

New research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has, however, uncovered errors and failures in the system which have sometimes prevented claimants from receiving their payments.

The charity’s analysis of 1,600 benefit cases from welfare rights advisers across the UK found cases where claimants were wrongly advised that decisions can’t be appealed.

Some were also told that they must take a different route to try to resolve the issue or that they need to provide evidence to challenge a decision when they do not.

CPAG also found that when people have their claim refused, their online account is often closed. This makes it harder to get a decision reviewed because letters explaining why it was refused cannot be accessed any more.

In a foreword to CPAG’s report, former Justice of the High Court Dame Laura Cox writes: ‘Many people are getting lost in the quagmire of the appeals process. Understandably they lose confidence in the system and give up. Erroneous decisions therefore stand, to the detriment of individual families and to society as a whole.’

‘If, due to complexity, inflexibility or incoherence, the appeals process in UC cases is almost impossible to understand and to pursue effectively, incorrect decisions go unchallenged and suffering is prolonged. Children fall through that safety net and our system of justice is undermined,’ she continues.

‘Much more must now be done to enable those who wish to challenge a decision to do so effectively and without delay. The right to appeal against an adverse decision is an important part of respect for individual dignity, for the accuracy, predictability and consistency of decision-making and, ultimately, for the rule of law.’

A DWP spokesperson said: 'We continue to work closely with CPAG and welcome the opportunity to do so. We have already improved guidance online and advice to staff about Mandatory Reconsiderations.

'Anyone who disagrees with a benefits decision is able to request a Mandatory Reconsideration either online, by phone, in person or in writing.'

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