Delays in processing benefit claims can mean policies meant to help do the opposite.
This was the experience of our sick client who asked for help in January. She was receiving universal credit (UC) but her GP believed her actual capability for work was limited. If this was correct she would qualify for an extra monthly payment.
Her next step was to apply for a work capability assessment. In mid-November she completed the UC50 form (24 pages) and posted to the Health Assessment Advisory Service.
In the third week of January she was still waiting for a response. She made requests in her UC journal but heard nothing about an assessment that would now be on the phone.
In this case, delay caused a particular difficulty. The client was subject to the benefit cap which meant the housing part of her UC was less than her actual rent. The result was growing rent arrears.
If she was in fact found to have limited capability for work and work-related activity there were 2 consequences. She would receive the extra amount but would no longer be under the benefit cap so her overall payment could rise.
As long as the delay continues (no doubt due partly to Covid) the client is potentially worse off. With debts rising, she can’t do anything because assessments are outside her control. And for some clients (maybe her, maybe not), the system doesn’t allow telephone assessments but requires a face-to-face meeting to decide work capability. Covid makes these impossible at the moment so there’s more delay.
At this point, the only options might be for us at Citizens Advice to lobby the local JCP or for the GP to complain. On this occasion, however, we can report that a helpful Job Centre Plus manager persuaded her Manager to make a special request. An assessment was organised 1 week later.