MSPs in the Scottish Parliament have expressed deep concern over a new service which has been launched by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
The ‘Help to Claim’ service which is funded by the DWP but delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland does not protect the date a person makes a claim.
This comes at the same time as Professor Alston UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty has produced his second damning report on poverty levels in the UK.
An article on his first report can be accessed here: “Poverty is a Political Choice”the Alston United Nations Report on Poverty in the UK
Although the United Kingdom is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty, and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Policies of austerity introduced in 2010 continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences. Alston Report
It might seem to some observers that the Department of Work and Pensions has been tasked with designing a digital and sanitized version of the nineteenth century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens, rather than seeking to respond creatively and compassionately to the real needs of those facing widespread economic insecurity in an age of deep and rapid transformation brought about by automation, zero-hour contracts and rapidly growing inequality.
The MSPs members of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee have written a letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the UK Government Amber Rudd MP demanding an urgent review of the ‘Help to Claim Service’.
The letter concerning Universal Credit – protected date of claim, from the Convener Bob Doris states:
“On 8 May 2019 in Parliament, I asked a question about the removal of the protected date of claim guarantee. This protection previously allowed councils and Citizens Advice Scotland to backdate claims to the date of the start of the application process, rather than the date of final submission of the claim.
“At last week’s meeting of the Committee, I raised this with a representative of Citizens Advice Scotland. She confirmed, coinciding with the start of the new Help to Claim contract, that CAS can no longer protect the date of claim. “
People already have to wait 5 weeks for a claim to be processed in order to receive payments that they are entitled to. The service provided by CAS with ‘Help to Claim’ means it is only the submitted date that is used. It is suspected that many people will be disadvantaged.
You can watch the Social Security Committee discussion here