As the full Universal Credit ‘service’ gets rolled out to more areas, growing numbers of people are finding a new hurdle in the way of them getting the help and advice they need. In these areas (listed below) anyone who is helping a claimant and needs to contact the DWP on their behalf can no longer just provide their basic data, they will need the person being helped to give their consent themselves – either verbally over the telephone or through their online journal (we’d all just be numbers on a computer if the DWP had their way) or in person at the jobcentre. Getting through to the DWP by phone is rarely quick and easy (cue lots of tiny Vivaldi), and what if someone has learning difficulties or is in hospital…? Furthermore, this consent only covers the particular question being asked. If you need another separate piece of information you will need to start the process all over again. These restrictions apply to everyone who is trying to help, including MPs. Frank Field, who is Chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and hardly a friend of the benefit system, has described that as ‘a major barrier to justice’.
So far, the areas affected in Scotland are: Greenock, Inverness, Kirkintilloch, Musselburgh and Port Glasgow. (For the full UK list click here and look for the asterisks.)