If you are already getting old-style benefits and have had no major change of circumstances that would affect your benefit and require a reapplication, then you do not need to move to Universal Credit until at least July 2019. But that hasn’t stopped the jobcentre from attempting to nudge people onto the new system – and causing general alarm and confusion. People have been telling us that they have been asked if they have considered moving to Universal Credit. As we have explained in the past, this is rarely a good move – so you shouldn’t have to consider for very long.
Despite this enthusiasm for getting more people onto UC, the system can’t actually manage to keep up with those already signed up. One of our activists recently had to contact them urgently to sort out a DWP error, and after waiting four days for a response on the online journal, which is how you are meant to communicate, had to ring up and listen to half an hour of Vivaldi.
And the requirement to produce more and more documentation continues to cause problems and delays. We met a woman coming out of the jobcentre who told us that every time she went, they asked her to bring proof of something else. She had applied for Universal Credit a month back and this had been her third visit to hand in written evidence of her situation. Meanwhile she was living off savings.
(Although the National Audit Office has just run a coach and horses through all the DWP’s claims for Universal Credit, don’t expect a rethink. Despite all the problems, the NAO head concluded that ‘There is really no practical choice but to keep on keeping on with the rollout.’ See the Guardian)
Meanwhile, there’s more communication confusion over how to hand in insurance lines for ESA. You used to bring these into the jobcentre, but now this process too has been moved online (https//fitnote.itsbeta.net), or to the post if you can’t manage the mobile phone thing. (The jobcentre has prepaid second class envelopes – make a copy of the note before sending it off in case it never gets there.) However not everyone is aware of the new system…
Besides these issues, at this week’s stall we sent a few people off for more comprehensive help from Shelter’s welfare advisors – and SUWN activists were out protesting the Westminster power grab one evening, and supporting Justice4Grenfell the next. Last week was definitely a long time in politics.
Thanks for help on the stall to Norma, Gary, Tony, Jonathan, Sarah and Kat, and thanks to Norma, Sarah, Tony and Karen for photos