Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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A ‘small army’ of benefit claimants face a long wait for their cash


27 February 2018
Indy

Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants are being left without cash for lengthy periods because of bureaucratic delays in assessing their applications, the i can disclose.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was warned that the hold-ups were leaving the poorest families struggling to afford food, light and heat before their first payments arrived. The DWP has set itself the objective of processing applications within ten working days.

But new figures show the target was missed in well over ten per cent of claims last year, which is equivalent to some 214,000 applications for benefits.

A written Commons answer from Alok Sharma, the employment minister, also revealed that more than 970,000 claims took over a week to process.

Frank Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee, said: “When people turn to the benefits system for help, after having hit rock bottom, they desperately need for their income to be sorted out as quickly as possible.

“But the minister’s answer reveals how a small army of people in that situation are being let down by the state.

“How else can those people put food on the table and keep their homes warm, let alone apply for jobs, if it takes weeks and weeks to register their claim and establish an income?”

According to Mr Sharma’s answer, 110,180 Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants and 103,650 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants waited more than two weeks for their applications to be assessed. A total of 671,250 JSA claimants and 302,900 ESA claimants waited more than a week for news of their applications.

The DWP does not have information about the number of claimants receiving emergency advances to tide them over. Around one-quarter of people who use foodbanks say they are visiting because of delays receiving their benefit payments, according to the Trussell Trust, which co-ordinates the national network of foodbanks.

Mr Field said he was contacted last week by a mother with a one-year-old child who had been left with “7p to my name” as a result of her benefit claim being delayed.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We strongly believe people should be able to access support when they need it and the vast majority of JSA and ESA claims are processed within 10 working days.

“Anyone who needs financial support during that time can apply for an advance on their first payment, or should speak to their jobcentre about other support.”

Nigel Morris, The i

 




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