Well, will you look at this? It seems some MPs have cottoned on to the problems addressed in a petition launched by Gill Thompson (sister of David Clapson, who died because a DWP decision to deprive him of benefit left him penniless), along with Maggie Zolobajluk and This Writer.
The petition calls on David Cameron to implement just two of 26 recommendations that have been made to change current sanction policies – to make hardship payments accessible from the instant a sanction is imposed, and to implement a broad, independent review of DWP benefit management systems.
A Parliamentary inquiry into the subject opens on Wednesday.
Don’t expect it to solve everything.
Britain’s social security system is failing thousands of its most vulnerable claimants, with delays and errors in processing welfare benefits leaving many sick and disabled people, including some with cancer, for months without income.
MPs have been told that long waits for benefit payments are the single biggest cause of food bank use and are forcing claimants into debt and “survival crime” such as shoplifting, as well as triggering stress, mental illness and homelessness.
Charities and local authorities say the millions of pounds they spend providing advice and help to vulnerable individuals left in crisis by avoidable benefit delays is unsustainable, and they cannot “shore up” the system’s failings indefinitely.
The claims are contained in over 60 evidence submissions by frontline charities, food banks, councils, housing associations, private landlords, academics and individuals to a Commons select committee inquiry on benefit delivery which starts on Wednesday.
A Guardian analysis of the evidence reveals:
- Widespread concern that a key design feature of universal credit, which requires new claimants to wait 42 days before receiving payment, will plunge thousands of families into hardship and debt.
- Anger from care organisations that claimants with terminal illnesses such as cancer are still subjected to delays to their benefit entitlements, despite government promises to fast-track such applications.
- Disquiet that official hardship funds are often not offered to vulnerable claimants facing long delays, forcing them to rely on charity help, take out doorstep loans, or go without food and heating.
Tory MP John Glen, a member of the work and pensions select committee and a prime mover behind the inquiry, said it would examine why charities’ benefit delay-related workload was rising at a time when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed it had speeded up benefits processing.
The weight of evidence submitted to the inquiry challenges both ministers’ claim that they are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society, as well their long-held insistence that welfare reform cannot be linked to rising food bank use.
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