Our impact | CPAG

Our impact

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)
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.