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DWP must take urgent action to ensure mandatory medical requirements are not placed on UC claimants, says SSAC

25 September 2019

In a new report, the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) says the DWP must

In order to receive UC it is necessary to meet conditionality requirements, which will be determined by an individual’s capability and circumstances. It is these work-related requirements that will be recorded in a ‘claimant commitment’. The claimant commitment will also set out the consequences if these requirements are not met.

Work Coaches are legally required to make reasonable adjustments for claimants with a disability, under the Equality Act 2010.

This includes applying appropriate discretion to requirements, such as varying or limiting types of work a claimant should look for and accept, as well as adjustments to support the claimant in accessing and engaging with their commitment and the Jobcentre.

However, overall the SSAC says there is mixed evidence of effective individual tailoring:

“Our findings are also backed up by survey evidence from DWP, which found around a half of claimants felt their personal circumstances had been considered. Just over 60% felt their commitment was achievable, meaning a significant minority did not and so may not be inspired to act

… Claimants with physical and mental health problems were less likely than other claimants to feel that their commitment reflected their circumstances.

One consultee highlighted an online survey of disabled people on UC which found only a quarter felt their work coach had taken account of their impairment or condition in planning activities. When they raised this with their work coach, a third felt they were not listened to, while less than a third felt they were. Failing to take impairments into account would be in breach of the Equality Act 2010.”

The SSAC concludes that: 

“'Based on the evidence we have, it is our view that unless action is taken there is a risk that the claimant commitment will not help all claimants to achieve better labour market outcomes and, in some cases, could have a detrimental impact, especially on claimants in vulnerable circumstances.

Liz Sayce, the SSAC’s interim chair and former chief executive of DR UK, says it is impossible to identify the “true scale” of the problems with the claimant commitment because DWP does not collect the right data:

“The claimant commitment is a central part of the government’s approach to helping people back into work. But the committee’s work has shown that improvements need to be made.

Inappropriate conditions and ineffective support risks failing some benefit claimants and their families, and in some cases may cause harm. Getting this policy right, all the way across the country, is essential. DWP needs to do more, more quickly, to ensure that happens.”

The SSAC report The effectiveness of the Claimant Commitment in Universal Credit is available @ www.gov.uk.

See also our factsheet Universal Credit and disability