Poor data-sharing at DWP short-changing universal credit claimants
Universal credit (UC) claimants are not always getting extra amounts of UC they’re entitled to when they become eligible for some other benefits because of poor data-sharing within the DWP, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warns.
When people on UC become entitled to Child Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Carer’s Allowance this usually means they can have a disabled child element or a carer’s element added to their UC.
The disabled child element of UC is worth £456.89 per month (higher rate) or £146.31 (lower rate), the carer’s element £185.86.
But claimants don’t necessarily know they’re entitled to the extra UC, and yet the DWP relies on them to notify it of their new entitlement. As a result, parents of disabled children and carers are too often underpaid benefits.
CPAG says the department already has the information it needs to ensure that parents and carers automatically get higher amounts of UC when they become entitled to them but because the information isn’t shared between different parts of the department, there isn’t a process for flagging when a claimant has a new entitlement to extra UC.
The charity fears that many claimants will never identify that there is a disabled child element or carer’s element missing from their UC award because they will not have known that they were entitled to it. And parents who do manage to get the extra element added late but receive no arrears, will often simply accept this when in fact they are entitled to back payments to the date at which they became entitled to child DLA or carer’s allowance.
CPAG’s ‘early warning system’ - which collates and analyses welfare rights cases from across the UK – has come across numerous cases of parents who have been short-changed in this way. Some carers on UC have gone for months or even years with no carer element in their UC, even though their UC entitlement is reduced by £1 for every £1 they receive from carer’s allowance.
The charity says the DWP must identify a way to award the carer element and child DLA elements of UC automatically to UC claimants who become entitled to it, using information already held by non-UC parts of the department. Better data-sharing between UC and DLA departments, could, for example, mean that a UC decision-maker would be notified automatically when a new DLA award is made to a child named in a UC award.
The department should also conduct an exercise to identify claimants who have not received the child DLA or carer’s element of UC so that their ongoing awards can be corrected and arrears paid where due.
Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said:
Carers and parents of disabled children can ill-afford to be without the money they’re entitled to and yet poor data-sharing within the DWP means some go for years without support that’s rightfully theirs. The department needs to get much smarter about using information it already holds to get families their correct awards. It really isn’t good enough that families go without because the DWP’s data-sharing isn’t up to scratch.
Notes to editors:
CPAG’s new Briefing with case studies explains how parents of disabled children regularly miss out on extra UC they are entitled to.
A previous CPAG Briefing explains the situation for UC claimants who become eligible for carer’s allowance – see P.86
CPAG press contact: Jane Ahrends 07816 909302