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DWP Staff Told In Training ‘Not To Mention Hardship Payments’ Finds C4 Reporter

March 9, 2015

GOVERNMENT workers are being trained to avoid giving benefit claimants details of hardship payments and other emergency funds, an undercover investigation has found.

A reporter from Channel 4’s Dispatches programme who joined a training course at a call centre in Bolton, Greater Manchester, was told not to volunteer information about same-day advance payments or other funds intended to tide claimants over until their benefits are paid.

At one point a trainer said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which administers the government’s new universal credit benefits scheme, was trying to restrict same-day payments because they “cost the department more money to do”. The trainer added: “It costs us 1p to do a five-day [payment] and costs us about £6 to do the [same-day].”

The reporter was also told that flexible support funds were “not advertised” and should not be mentioned unless the claimant specifically asked. “If we did [advertise], everyone would want one,” the trainer said.

The programme, to be broadcast tomorrow, also discovered a series of disruptive computer mishaps and quotes an instructor as apologising because the training is “all higgledy-piggledy”.

The findings are likely to fuel criticism of the ambitious but long-delayed universal credit scheme aimed at streamlining benefit payments and accelerating claimants’ return to work. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, claimed last week that universal credit would “bring an end to the something-for-nothing culture that trapped people for too long”.

The new payment, which claimants apply for online, combines six different working age benefits into one payment, which is paid monthly. The introduction of the universal benefit has been described as the biggest shakeup of the welfare state since the 1940s.

The system is eventually intended to help up to 7m people but government figures show only 64,000 people have used universal credit to make claims so far.

A DWP spokesman said call centre workers were trained to provide “administrative support over the phone”. He said conversations about emergency payments would normally take place in a Jobcentre. The spokesman said the DWP was making “every effort to ensure staff are aware of guidance” on hardship payments. He added that IT problems were fixed as and when they arose and that the universal credit system was “on track and . . . making good progress”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2015 11:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

  2. March 10, 2015 12:04 am

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

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