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Our impact

October 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefing 14

The final instalment in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mind the Gaps briefing 14 reviewed the top issues raised in previous briefings in the series, focussing on:

  1. People who need financial support being locked out of the social security system
  2. Common problems encountered by UC claimants
    • Childcare costs
    • Debt and deductions
    • Fraud investigations
    • Sanctions and conditionality
    • Moving to UC and becoming worse off
  3. The benefit cap
  4. Issues affecting ill and disabled claimants
October 2020 - USDAW partnership

We drew on the evidence in the Early Warning System to provide the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers with an overview of the issues currently affecting workers, and their in-work progression. We told them about the following issues:

  1. UC assessment periods clashing with payment cycles
  2. Benefit cap
  3. Employer errors affecting UC awards
  4. Overpayments, debts and deductions causing hardship
  5. Help with childcare costs inaccessible for people unable to pay upfront

If your organisation could benefit from our Early Warning System evidence, please email us at ews@cpag.org.uk.

September 2020 - Fairness in government debt management consultation

CPAG submitted evidence to the Cabinet Office's call for evidence regarding "Fairness in government debt management". Our evidence was drawn from the cases submitted to the Early Warning System and focussed on debt deductions in Universal Credit. 

September 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefing 13

The penultimate instalment in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mind the Gaps briefing 13 covered:

  • migrants struggling to access financial support;
  • the effect of delays in work capability assessments for ill and disabled claimants;
  • survivors of domestic violence experiencing difficulties accessing support;
  • people who have lost their jobs being denied access to the benefit system; and
  • people required to self-isolate being left without financial support
August 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefings 11 & 12

Two instalments in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mind the Gaps briefing 12 focussed on low-income workers who followed government advice when COVID-19 hit, and became worse off.

Mind the Gaps briefing 11 revisited the benefit cap in the week that the DWP's latest benefit cap statistics were released, focussing on:

  • Those who miss out on the increases to universal credit and local housing allowance because of the cap
  • Families who were previously on benefits but are now not deemed to be working enough to escape the cap
  • Families capped when claiming benefits for the first time
July 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefings 9 & 10

The next two instalments in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mind the Gaps briefing 10 covered:

  • EU nationals facing right to reside issues
  • Problems retaining ‘worker’ status
  • Women who experience domestic violence being denied access to benefits
  • Problems with DWP administration and appeal processes causing further delays

Mind the Gaps briefing 9 covered:

  • Debt recovery in universal credit
  • Conditionality and sanctions
July 2020 - Benefits in a time of Coronavirus webinar

A summary of the most common issues that had been reported to the Early Warning System in the course of the pandemic so far was presented at CPAG's webinar in July. You can access resources from the webinar on the Webinar: Benefits in a time of Coronavirus page

June 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefings 7 & 8

Fortnightly instalments in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mind the Gaps briefing 8 covered:

  • Parents with no childcare being told to take unpaid leave
  • Students excluded from claiming benefits
  • More families being affected by the benefit cap
  • Inadequate support for people who are unable to work due to illness or disability

Mind the Gaps briefing 7 covered: 

  • Ill and disabled claimants losing out due to delays in work capability assessments
  • Claimants left without any income while the DWP investigates cases of fraud
May 2020 - APPG on UC

CPAG gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on universal credit at the Coronavirus meeting, which you can read about on the Coronavirus meeting page of the APPG on universal credit webpage

May 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefings 3, 4, 5 & 6

Weekly instalments in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mind the Gaps briefing 6 covered:

  • Migrants left without financial support
  • People moving to UC in error and being financially worse off as a result

Mind the Gaps briefing 5 covered the benefit cap, and in particular:

  • Those who miss out on the increases to universal credit and local housing allowance because of the cap
  • Families who were previously on benefits but are now not deemed to be working enough
  • Families claiming benefits for the first time

Mind the Gaps briefing 4 covered:

  • People accruing housing costs when they cannot move
  • Claimants in receipt of a personal independence payment (PIP) being refused an extension
  • Claimants in receipt of severe disability premium transitioning on to universal credit in error 
  • Claimants of legacy benefits considering moving to UC because of the temporary increase in amounts

Mind the Gaps briefing 3 covered:

  • Problems with the job retention scheme and the self-employed income support scheme
  • Some workers being refused furlough
  • Confusion regarding the self-employed income support scheme and how it interacts with the benefit system
  • Some workers not eligible for income replacement schemes or UC
      April 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefing 2

      The second in a series of regular briefings highlighting gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

      Mind the Gaps briefing 2 covered:

      • Families not receiving the recent uplifts in benefits due to the benefit cap
      • Confusion regarding entitlement to benefits
      • Gaps in financial protection for some claimants who are bereaved
      April 2020 - Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment inquiry

      EWS cases informed our response to the Work & Pensions Committee Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment inquiry, in which the committee investigated options for shortening or eliminating the wait, and the feasibility and affordability of those options. 

      April 2020 - DWP's response to the coronavirus outbreak inquiry

      CPAG submitted both a written response and oral evidence to the Work & Pensions Committee inquiry regarding the DWP's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Our response detailed the problems that people had claiming universal credit including confusion about entitlement, difficulties getting through the verification process and existing design faults such as the strict monthly assessment period making it impossible to budget effectively. 

      April 2020 – Computer says "no" update

      Since our first Computer says "no" report on information provision published in April 2019, changes have made to the universal credit statement which coincide with some of the recommendations made in that report. Claimants can now see more information about how their housing costs element was calculated. It is now easier to see when a housing costs element has been reduced by the bedroom tax, local housing allowance or housing costs contribution (non-dependant deduction), or only a portion of their rent has been taken into account (e.g. in a joint tenancy). Claimants can also see an explanation of the work allowance if it is applied to their earned income. The remainder of our recommendations have not yet been actioned, including:

      • Confirmation of circumstances used in calculation or list of elements that have not been included (so claimants can easily identify a missing element)
      • Explanation of the two child limit
      • Weekly as well as monthly rent figures (so claimants can easily check the correct amount was used)
      • Breakdown of earnings received (so claimants can easily check correct amounts used, particularly when they've been paid more than once in an assessment period)
      • Benefit cap explanation for claimants who are not currently affected (so, for example, working claimants are aware they may be capped if their earnings reduce or stop)
      March 2020 - Mind the Gaps briefing 1

      The first in a series of regular briefings highlighting some of the gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Evidence of these gaps is drawn from our Early Warning System (EWS) which collects case studies from frontline practitioners working directly with families on the problems they are seeing with the social security system. Find all 13 briefings on the Policy post listings page of our website.

      Mind the Gaps briefing 1 covered:

      • Groups excluded from claiming universal credit (UC)
      • Support for making or managing a benefit claim
      • Families struggling with additional costs of children
      February 2020 – Human Rights Watch

      The EWS team presented an explanation of universal credit payment issues, together with illustrative cases, to Human Rights Watch. We detailed cases of families worse off on universal credit, awards fluctuating due to inflexible monthly assessment periods, incorrect payments due to real time information discrepancies, premature closure of housing benefit claims and barriers to accessing council tax support. 

      February 2020 – National Audit Office

      We provided an overview to the National Audit Office of the problems encountered by people starting a universal credit claim. The summary included anonymised EWS cases to illustrate the effects of a delay in claiming, limited backdating provisions, difficulties complying with a multi-stage claim process, hardship caused by claim closures and inadequate payments once claim up and running. 

      July 2019 – Computer Says "No": Challenging decisions

      CPAG released the second report in their Computer says "No" series about the dangers of the automated universal credit system. This report concerns the problems claimants face when attempting to challenge decisions they believe to be wrong, and how these barriers prevent the exercise of appeal rights and frustrate access to justice. 

      June 2019 – DWP meeting

      The EWS team met with the DWP’s Director of External Affairs, Strategic Design and Planning in the Universal Credit Programme to follow up on commonly reported issues and ways the DWP may improve the digital system. We followed up on topics discussed in February 2019 and also brought the following to their attention:

      • Points to be raised in our forthcoming Computer says "no": Challenging decisions report
      • Habitual Residence Test decisions leaving families destitute
      • Inappropriate signposting to universal credit
      • Severe Disability Premium gateway working inconsistently
      • Lack of bereavement protection for universal credit claimants
      • Lack of publicity about the changes affecting claimants reaching pension age
      • Persistent problems with Housing Costs element when a joint tenant has left the family home
      April 2019 – Computer Says “No”: Information provision
      Numerous EWS cases have raised concerns about the way that universal credit decisions are made, implemented and communicated to claimants. This report, the first of three on universal credit decision making, outlines the problems claimants encounter in understanding their UC award, challenging decisions and getting decisions implemented.  This report features EWS cases that highlight these problems, focussing on the online UC system and how it can be improved.  
      March 2019 – Media request

      We interrogated our EWS database to respond to The Guardian’s query about universal credit regarding:

      • UC claimants who were wrongly advised to go onto the benefit, were worse off as a result and should now be compensated (as per recent government announcement)
      • UC claimants who were refused the benefit on right to reside grounds even though they have a satisfactory right to reside
      March 2019 – UC snapshot

      CPAG analysed survey results provided by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers on universal credit claims, adding a further dimension to EWS cases.

      February 2019 – EWS update

      A comprehensive report detailing the trends we have identified in EWS cases over the preceding six months. 

      February 2019 – DWP meeting

      The EWS team met with the DWP’s Director of External Affairs, Strategic Design and Planning in the Universal Credit Programme to discuss ways that EWS database could help the DWP improve the universal credit system.  We told them about cases concerning:

      • Real Time Information glitches
      • Accessing information about closed UC claims online
      • Inadequate advice on claiming UC given to claimants appealing ESA decisions 
      • Missing carer elements for UC claimants following bereavement
      • Routes for submitting mandatory reconsideration requests
      • Safeguarding vulnerable claimants at an early stage
      February 2019 – Natural Migration inquiry

      EWS cases informed our response to the Work & Pensions Committee Natural Migration inquiry, in which the committee investigated the impacts on clients of transferring onto universal credit following a change in circumstances and before managed migration, and transitional protection, comes into effect. CPAG responded both in a written submission and in oral evidence. 

      January 2019 – National Children’s Bureau partnership

      We provided NCB with an overview of issues faced by people claiming universal credit following bereavement.  In summary, our cases showed claimants were worse off as a result of:

      • lack of bereavement protection in UC
      • failure to interpret regulations about carers correctly
      • loss of disability premiums on transferring to UC

      They will incorporate the information in their response to the Work and Pensions inquiry on support for the bereaved.

      January 2019 – Welfare Safety Net inquiry

      Our written response to the Work & Pensions Committee Welfare Safety Net inquiry (launched when the UN special rapporteur visited to investigate extreme poverty in the UK) was based on EWS cases, and what they had been telling us about the effects of changes to the social security system on poor families.

      January 2019 – UC escalation routes

      Brief report for Kate Osamor, MP outlining the routes and obstacles claimants face in getting universal credit issues resolved. EWS cases were used to illustrate the effects of problems on real claimants. 

      January 2019 – NAWRA partnership

      CPAG provided over 30 anonymised EWS cases to NAWRA illustrating the effects of universal credit decisions on EEA nationals. See NAWRA’s response to the Work and Pensions Committee Welfare Safety Net inquiry.

      November 2018 – Carers UK partnership

      We provided Carers UK with a sample of the cases we had seen concerning recovery of carer’s allowance overpayments. This fed into Carers UK response to Work and Pensions Committee Carers Allowance overpayments inquiry.

      November 2018 – Benefit Cap inquiry

      EWS cases informed our response to the Work and Pensions Committee Benefit Cap inquiry. CPAG responded both with a written submission and in oral evidence.

      July 2018 - Top 8 issues in UC

      We published an analysis of the top 8 universal credit issues we're seeing through the early warning system.

      June 2018 - National Audit Office

      We cited case studies from the early warning system in formal submissions to the National Audit Office and in meetings with NAO officers

      October 2017 - APPG on UC

      CPAG was asked by Ruth George MP to act as secretariat to the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Universal Credit.  At the group’s inaugural meeting in Westminster in October 2017 we raised the problems which face clients who lose entitlement to ESA and are forced to claim UC.