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MPs Launch Inquiry Into Benefit Delays

The Work and Pensions Committee has today (22 July) launched an inquiry into the accuracy and timeliness of benefit payments.

MPs will explore potential problems which may arise as a result of delayed or underpaid benefits, which may include poverty and reliance on food banks.

The committee of cross-party MPs will also investigate how errors and delays can be better mitigated, and how the performance of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in this area can be monitored and improved.

Frank Field, Chair of the Committee, said: “My own Hunger inquiry found that the Department could straight away cut by a third the numbers of people having to rely on food banks, if it could ensure all legitimate benefit claims were paid promptly and correctly.

“It has made some progress in speeding up the delivery of new claims, but the five or six week wait for a first payment under Universal Credit could turn out to be a nightmare for some claimants.

“Even under the existing system there are too many mind-blowing instances in which people on their uppers are left with little or even no money for weeks on end. We will seek, therefore, to come up with a package of reforms which helps the Department build on its early progress towards a more effective system.”

New Committee Member, Mhairi Black MP, said: “Local welfare rights officers have highlighted to me the issues they face with the speed of cases being process by the department.

“They are particularly concerned when no priority is given to clients who they have identified as vulnerable, especially when all of the information required by the DWP has been supplied.

“Vulnerable people are often left in a position where they have no money to heat their homes or feed themselves for several days or weeks.  It is therefore, no surprise to them that Paisley has the third busiest food bank in Scotland.

“There are also serious concerns about the current impact of procedures for people in receipt of housing benefit whose circumstances have changed as well as the anticipated problems with Housing Costs being paid directly to claimants in receipt of Universal Credit rather than direct to the landlord.

“I welcome the opportunity to explore these and many other issues that have been raised with me through the inquiry.”

Evidence can be submitted to the committee up to Friday 4 September 2014.

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