The DWP have released a new document outlining the Claimant Journey (PDF) for those claiming Universal Credit in the pathfinder areas – the handful of Jobcentres scheduled to trial the new benefit. The Claimant Journey suggests that except for the initial application form, which will be filled in online, Universal Credit will be a telephone based benefit.
After filling in the online form, which will have to be done in one session and won’t work with certain browsers, claimants will then be required to wait for a phone call and a text from the DWP. It doesn’t seem to have even occurred to Iain Duncan Smith that many claimants don’t have mobile phones.
Those who the DWP manages to make contact with will then be invited in for an interview at which they will be required to provide details of identification, and other documents as evidence of their circumstances. At this interview they will be forced to sign a Claimant Commitment, which will explain the ‘conditionality’ which will be imposed on them whilst they are in receipt of the benefit. This ‘conditionality’ will mean enforced 35 hour a week job search, no matter where a claimant lives or how many jobs are available locally.
Claimants will then have to wait for the DWP to write to them before knowing for sure whether a claim has been successful.
It is the process on reporting changes in circumstances which reveal just how far Universal Credit has moved from the ‘digital by default’ model promised by ministers. It appears that changes in circumstances will be expected to be reported by telephone in most cases. The documents also warns that those in work, whose employers are not using the new Real Time Information system to report wage and tax details , will have to report income details to the DWP on a monthly basis. The same will apply to anyone who derives some income from self-employment. There is no information provided so far on how exactly claimants are supposed to do this, but it looks likely this will also be a telephone system.
Anyone who has ever tried to telephone the DWP only to spend an hour on hold if you are lucky enough to get through will know what a disaster this is going to be. And just to make it worse, the DWP are using an 0845 number which could cost up to 40p a minute to call from mobile phones.
So claimants will need a computer with internet access to make the initial claim, a mobile phone to accept texts from the DWP and a landline to ensure that they aren’t paying astronomical costs to report earnings, or lack of them, every month.
How the DWP will know that they are actually speaking to the claimant is not explained. It seems that sinister early plans for voice prints and other shadowy identification procedures have been abandoned. Which means you’ll be able to ring up and get someone’s benefits stopped just for the shits and giggles.
In reality this is no joke. It is exactly the kind of shit that vindictive or abusive ex-partners are likely to pull. And this is just one of a thousand things that the DWP haven’t thought of as they charge ahead with bungled and unfit for purpose welfare reforms.
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