After the DWP’s recent propaganda campaign on Universal Credit “myth-busting”, is it planning to run another, warning about fraud?
That is one of the questions sent to Peter Schofield, the senior civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions after it was revealed that tens of millions of pounds are being fraudulently claimed in Universal Credit loans.
According to the Parliament.uk website, error and fraud at the DWP are now at their highest levels since records began – according to its own 2018-19 accounts.
Frank Field, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, has written to Mr Schofield with a series of questions about this matter and the revelations behind it.
He said: “In the Department’s fantastical predictions, Universal Credit was supposed to reduce error. Instead it is the most error-riddled of all benefits, and it’s only getting worse.
“DWP wasted billions of pounds of public money on error last year alone but that doesn’t begin to count the human cost. When will DWP get a grip on this escalating problem?”
The letter itself asks:
- How much money the DWP has paid out in fraudulent Universal Credit advances – and how much it has recovered.
- When Mr Schofield became aware of concerns about this fraud from frontline staff.
- What actions his department has taken to prevent this fraud – and what he plans to do in the future.
- Whether he is satisfied that the department does enough to listen to the concerns of staff and act on them promptly.
And he also raises a question about unfair treatment of the victims of this type of scam.
He writes: “Even when the department is informed that a claim for Universal Credit was fraudulent and made without the claimant’s knowledge or consent, it seems that claimants are being prevented from returning to their legacy benefits—even if they are worse off on Universal Credit.
“What operational guidance do you give to your staff about the handling of cases in which a claim for Universal Credit is made fraudulently, without the claimant’s knowledge or consent?
“What is the legal basis for refusing to allow claimants whose legacy benefits have been stopped because a fraudulent Universal Credit claim has been made in their name from returning to their legacy benefits?”
I’m sure we all look forward to Mr Schofield’s answers.
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