New Universal Credit measures to remain after lockdown eased

Some emergency measures brought in to speed up Universal Credit payments are likely to be retained after the coronavirus lockdown has been eased, a top civil servant has said.

Changes brought in to speed up Universal Credit payments are likely to stay post-lockdown
Changes brought in to speed up Universal Credit payments are likely to stay post-lockdown

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made more than 20 changes to how the benefit is processed in a bid to cater for a huge increase in demand sparked by the coronavirus lockdown.

Officials say that despite a spike of almost two million claimants they have managed to speed up payments, leading to more than nine in 10 people getting benefits on time over the past two weeks.

And DWP director general Neil Couling said one of the key changes was highly likely to be retained.

He told the E&S that the department had identified a new way of assessing people's identity through tax credits, a system he had "hurried through" due to the pandemic.

"We're now running that and thousands of people are now verifying using that route. We'll definitely keep that one," he said.

Mr Couling said the DWP has drafted in 10,000 staff to help deal with Universal Credit claims, with many able to process payments from home.

But some of the changes to the benefit would be scrapped, he said, including the removal of the requirement for claimants to be actively seeking work.

Normality

"Other things that we have done that are helping to speed things up, we don't want to keep," he said.

"We don't require people to look for work at the moment. The Secretary of State announced that those responsibilities would be suspended because of the nature of the pandemic.

"That normally causes a chunk of cases not to be ready for payment because people haven't accepted their responsibilities over the system.

"That's not going on at the moment, and it's allowing us to go a little bit faster.

"I don't think we'd want to keep that. I think ministers want us to expect people to look for work when they can when the pandemic eases and they're back to more normality."

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