Claimants slate Universal Credit helpline in Department for Work and Pensions survey

Nearly a quarter of callers with Universal Credit queries felt that helpline staff did not understand their queries.

By Gavin Ledwith, Digital Specialist
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019, 15:31

Just under one in five people also claimed they were given incorrect information by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) call handlers.

The figures have emerged this year in the DWP’s own claimant service and experience survey for 2017-18.

Universal Credit helpline queries finished bottom out of 10 different types of benefit calls made to the DWP.

It found that 24 per cent of callers with Universal Credit issues felt DWP staff did not understand their “particular circumstances”.

Seventy-three per cent of claimants surveyed felt they did while another three per cent said staff “sometimes” did.

Overall, the findings indicated that DWP call handlers understood less about Universal Credit than they did all nine other benefits highlighted in the survey.

The 24 per cent who felt that staff did not understand their particular circumstances was also more than a third higher than the 17 per cent “did not understand” average across the 10 “benefit type” categories.

When it came to providing correct information to callers, Universal Credit also finished bottom.

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Just 76 per cent callers felt they received accurate information (83 per cent average) while 19 per cent complained of receiving incorrect details (13 per cent average).

In terms of helpfulness, Universal Credit calls again fared lowest with 78 per cent of claimants saying call handlers were helpful (compared to the 94 per cent average) and 17 per cent insisting they were not (five per cent).

A new report by the Child Poverty Action Group highlighted failures to explain how Universal Credit payments had been calculated as among the helpline problems.

The report notes: “DWP staff on the UC helpline do not always have access to a full calculation of awards.

“So if a claimant seeks help to understand her or his claim she or he may not be able to get a full explanation.”

Around 1,900 claimants were surveyed for each of the Universal Credit helpline questions.

The DWP did not respond to our requests for a response to its own survey findings.