In the second in this series, our report looks at problems with understanding decisions, challenging errors and protecting the rights of people claiming universal credit (UC). It outlines some of the problems claimants experience when they try to challenge a decision about their UC award. These problems have been identified by analysing case studies received via CPAG’s Early Warning System (EWS).
The first Computer Says ‘No!’ report focused on problems with the information provided to claimants about their UC award. It concluded that claimants are not being provided with sufficient information to understand their entitlement, and that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is failing in its legal duty to provide adequate information to over two million claimants each month about how and when to challenge a decision they do not agree with.
This report focuses on the process of challenging a decision. Using evidence from the EWS, it shows that for those claimants who are able to overcome the initial obstacles of making sense of their UC award and identifying how to challenge a decision about it, there can be further trouble ahead.
We have seen examples of claimants experiencing difficulties at every stage: when trying to submit a request for the decision to be looked at again (a mandatory reconsideration); on receiving a mandatory reconsideration notice; and when they try to proceed to the next stage of the process (appealing to an independent tribunal). Claimants face a range of barriers, including being dissuaded from making a challenge, being required to provide documentation or submit the application in a certain form, and being diverted down another route that is not appropriate in the circumstances. Claimants who are able to make a mandatory reconsideration request can then experience long delays before they receive a mandatory reconsideration notice. In some cases, they do not receive a notice at all, or it is provided in the wrong format. And claimants who wish to proceed to a tribunal are required to move to a paper-based system after being required by the DWP to manage their UC claim online.