Universal Credit claimant forced by DWP to pose for photo to get payment
Chart shows impact of Universal Credit cuts across UK
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As part of Universal Credit applications, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is now asking for claimants to send photos of themselves in different locations to prove their identity in certain cases. This follows a series of different changes to the application processes for DWP benefits due to the Government still maintaining some social distancing measures as a result of the pandemic. On social media, the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) shared a message their anonymous client had received, who is currently in the process of claiming the benefit payment.
In their tweet, the PILC said: “Our client received this message on his Universal Credit online account this week. As if it wasn’t hard enough to claim.”
The letter stated: “Further to today’s phone call, I now require you to provide the following information.
“If you don’t provide all the information that we’ve requested, your claim will be closed.”
As part of the letter, several demands were requested of the claimants which involved taking various pictures to prove their identity and address.
Among the list of requests were: “A photo of you stood outside the front door (open behind you) of the property you live at. Ask someone to take this from the street so that the whole property can be seen.
“A photo of you stood next to your street sign with your right hand holding it. Ask someone to take this photo from a few meters away so that the background can be clearly seen.
“A photo of you holding your local newspaper for the area you live in (not a national tabloid newspaper). This should be dated the same day you upload the photo.”
The update to the application process was widely slammed on social media for being a “dystopian nightmare” and something “kidnappers do”.
On Twitter, Neil Couling, the DWP’s Director-General for the Universal Credit scheme, cautioned that this was a “temporary” measure resulting from the pandemic.
Mr Couling said: “This is a temporary process, tailored for the restrictions we are still under.
“Eventually we will be able to return to interviews in Jobcentres in cases of doubt about identity.
“There’s nothing to worry about here for claimants, they can engage with confidence.”
This controversy follows the Government’s decision to cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments, which faced backlash for the potential impact it would have on low-income households.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, a spokesperson for the DWP explained that this measure is only used for a “very small number of cases” and is considered a “last resort” to tackle potential fraud.
According to the DWP, the department saw £8.4billion worth of fraud and error in Universal Credit last year.
A DWP spokesperson said: “At the start of the pandemic we suspended face-to-face verification of new claims as part of our Trust and Protect scheme to ensure all legitimate claimants got paid.
“We always said we would go back and verify claims, in order to protect the public purse, as some people sadly chose to abuse the temporary arrangements.
“We are now checking cases and have implemented this approach temporarily in a small number of cases where a claimant has been unable to interact with us remotely, ahead of the return of in-person verification at jobcentres.”
Following their tweet, Express.co.uk has reached out to the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) for comment.
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