The response below is a collection of the frontline experiences of the CSAN network in regard to the Benefit Delivery Inquiry. Respondents include in particular: Nugent Care, Cardinal Hume Centre, The Passage, St Vincent de Paul Society and Caritas Diocese of Salford.
While the process of issuing payments correctly and promptly have improved for straightforward claims; delays still occur frequently when additional information such as medical forms are requested.
- The shift towards technology fails to recognise the varying abilities of clients, in particular those with language barriers or those with computer skills. As a result, unnecessary delays frequently occur, as well as sanctions which could have been avoided.
- The impact of errors and delays, in particular inappropriate sanctions, has caused severe hardship for many of CSAN charities clients. Employment Support Allowance (ESA) applicants and recipients as well as migrants are the groups most adversely affected.
- There needs to be a greater understanding by the decision makers behind benefit sanctions of the impact on people with health issues and especially those with mental health issues.
- CSAN charities have had to diversify their support services in order to mitigate the impacts of errors, delays and incorrect sanctions within the benefit system.
- CSAN has noted that previously few charities were providing funding for utilities with a focus instead on food parcels, we now however see that most provide clients with money to top up utility meters.
The extent to which the DWP delivers benefit and Universal Credit payments correctly and promptly
- To allow charities and professionals to fully support vulnerable clients, there should be an intermediary line for advisors of charities to call on behalf of clients, similar to the one available for HMRC.
- Free phone lines and phone-banks in Jobcentres should be restored to enable claimants to receive an update on their application at no cost to themselves.
- There should be more opportunity for face to face contact with Jobcentre advisors, this will help claimants navigate the complicated procedures and reduce the number of errors made in the application stage.
- More recognition is needed of the varying abilities of computer skills, literacy, comprehension and language skills of claimants.