MPs launch inquiry into the holes in our benefits safety net

Restoring Faith in the Safety NetGreat news! We learned this week that MPs are to explore many of the concerns we’ve been raising about the holes that have been created in our benefits safety net.

The Work and Pensions Committee – a cross-party group of MPs – is launching a new inquiry into “the timeliness and accuracy of benefit delivery”. They’ll be addressing many of the holes in the safety net which we talked about in our report Restoring Faith in the Safety NetHundreds of supporters have emailed their MPs and called for an inquiry that aims to reinstates the safety net principle, tackling holes such as these:

  • People needing food aid because of benefit delays
  • Benefit delays and mistakes made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • The impact of errors and delays and how people are protected from negative effects
  • Ways of monitoring and improving the DWP’s performance

Frank Field MP, 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.”

Church Action on Poverty will submit evidence to the inquiry, and keep on working to reinstate the safety net principle in our benefits system. We’re grateful to the hundreds of supporters who emailed their MPs to call for action on this issue.

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