DWP failing to make reasonable adjustments for UC claimants with mental health problems

Tue,8 March 2022
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A new research report has been published that considers whether the DWP is meeting the needs of people with mental health problems and making adjustments to their service as required by the Equality Act 2010.

The report, by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), centres on Universal Credit (UC) which was promoted in its early stages as a personalised service, providing support to meet people’s needs.

Examples of a reasonable adjustment might be offering a telephone appointment rather than a face-to-face meeting, or offering a private interview room within a busy job centre so sensitive information is kept private.

CPAG explored the experiences of 27 UC claimants with mental health problems and asked them if they were proactively asked whether they needed reasonable adjustments at the various stages on their claimant journey.

However, no claimant it spoke to reported being expressly asked whether they needed a reasonable adjustment.

In addition, they were not asked if they needed alternative methods of communication, nor how their mental health affected their ability to interact with the UC system.

Among other findings made by CPAG include:

  • Claimants were unaware of their right to a reasonable adjustment.
  • Participants report not feeling able to share sensitive information, especially with work coaches.
  • Some claimants report that their communication needs are not met through the standard UC channels.
  • Some claimants find the job centre environment threatening and unwelcoming, to the extent that this causes them to feel panicky or tearful, or is otherwise harmful to their wellbeing.
  • Participants report a perception that UC is a benefit for those seeking work, and that they may be refused it if they indicate they are unable to work.

CPAG’s  recommendations include that:

  • The DWP should train and support staff to ask all claimants at each interaction whether they need a reasonable adjustment, both in how they communicate with their work coach and in how they access the UC service.
  • The DWP should create an environment in which claimants feel safe sharing sensitive information. This could be done through both staff training and a review of the physical space where the DWP meets with
  • The DWP should consider setting up an ‘extra care team’ providing more specialist support to claimants with additional communication needs so they can fully access the UC service.
  • DWP staff should be trained in identifying claimants whose mental health is affected by attending the job centre. Alternative appointments should be available, for example by phone, a home visit, or at a different office.
  • Claimants need to have clear information about their entitlement to UC, and to be reassured that it is a benefit for those with health issues who are unable to work.

The full CPAG report, Making adjustments? The experiences of universal credit claimants with mental health problems, is available from cpag.org.uk