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The current circumstances of existing benefit claimants could be ignored when they are transferred to the UK Government’s flagship Universal Credit scheme, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted.

The DWP previously said that a person’s personal circumstances would be fully taken in to account when considering a fresh claim for Universal Credit, but the DWP has since questioned the “potential merits of using existing data to pre-populate” claims for the troubled new Universal Credit scheme.

DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.

According to the government department, they already have access to information showing whether or not a claimant is terminally ill or has limited ability to work.

But without reliable information about a claimants past history in claiming social security benefits the decision risks alienating those with the greatest needs, and could also have a detrimental affect on a individuals full eligibility for Universal Credit and its many parts.

DWP minister Justin Tomlinson said the department has “no plans” to automatically pull through existing information on current claimants when considering their application for Universal Credit, meaning that claimants may be required to rehash information about themselves they have already divulged.

As anyone reading this will know, revisiting details about your past could result in important information being forgotten or unintentionally dismissed as not being important enough to disclose.

Mr Tomlinson argued that “the legacy [benefits] system does not have all of the information needed for a Universal Credit claim”, whilst warning that: “Implementing a claim on inaccurate data will lead to inaccurate awards and claimants not receiving the money they are entitled to.”

Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

He continued: “It is also important to note that not everyone will want to move on to Universal Credit and the Department cannot simply assume that all existing claimants want to claim Universal Credit.”

However he added that “if a claimant has an existing Work Capability Assessment decision, there will be no requirement to have another assessment in order to receive the disability elements of Universal Credit.”

He continued: “Also, for claimants who do not have any work-related requirements, we already operate a digital claimant commitment acceptance process and we will carry that forward when moving claimants over to Universal Credit without a change in circumstances.”