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Our FOIs: Universal Credit - Communication
Below are a selection of FOIs we have, over the past few years, sent to the DWP with the answers
We hope you find these useful.

Just click on the FOI you are interested in to see the full question and the answer.


QUESTION
Thank you for providing training documents on helping UC customers with complex needs.
See here.
However I have been unable to find in these, or other documents / regulations / procedural guidance, the answer to this specific issue.
How is a claimant who is unable to use the internet (either because of mental or physical disabilities, or other limiting factors such as isolated rural location with nointernet, or through having been legally barred from internet access) given assistance from DWP in managing their online claim?
There is plenty of information about help with claiming online, but I cannot find anything that explains how such a claimant would be given assistance from DWP to check their journal for notifications (or receive notifications in a different format), check their award details, communicate with their work coach, etc.
Not everyone can easily obtain an appointee (and in some cases this would not be possible or appropriate); not everyone has friends/family to assist. I cannot believe that DWP would do regular home visits.
Please provide the regulations or guidance that describes who would provide this assistance and procedurally how it would work.

ANSWER
I confirm that the Department holds no recorded information to answer your request.
However, to be helpful you may find the following explanation useful. This has however been provided outside our obligations under the Freedom of Information regime.
There will always be people for whom engaging with us digitally is not a feasible proposition. As a result, a Freephone telephone helpline and face to face support are also available for claimants to make and manage a Universal Credit claim. Where needed, the Work Coach will provide the claimant with a written note to remind them of the date of their next appointment, especially if the claimant has difficulty accessing or using online services. A home visit can also be arranged to support a claimant in making their initial claim and completing any other administrative tasks required to ensure the claimant receives the correct payment on time.
Visiting officers are available for vulnerable claimants. Many legacy benefits require a visit to a jobcentre to complete a claim. Once a claim is underway it can be maintained by Freephone.
As the information you seek is not held by the Department we will not be processing your request further.

Click here to see the full FOI.


QUESTION
We asked for the information that Universal Credit service centre staff have to hand when answering calls on "Housing Cost Contributions" ie Non Dependent Deductions, especially anything on exemption; and what they are advised to say when someone notifies that they are in receipt of PIP.
(This was because someone reported that the UC service centre told a claimant that they would have a non dependent deduction even though they'd been awarded PIP daily living.)

ANSWER
DWP attached a document called "Housing Actions Summary - How to gather information, calculate and prepare payments for help with housing "
On page 30 is this startling statement:
"When the main claimant is in receipt of the daily living component of PIP, or middle or higher rate care component of DLA, the HCC non-dependant deduction will continue as there is no functionality to enter PIP on the Agent Portal. The claimant is manually reimbursed if the deduction has been made incorrectly see Issuing manual payments. A manual override of the Housing element needs to be input to pay the correct amount of Housing element without the HCC."
So what this means is there is an error in the software so unless an agent realises to manually adjust and pay the claimant, they will have a non-dependent deduction ("Housing Costs Contribution") incorrectly taken from their Housing Cost Element in such situations.

Click here to see the full FOI.


QUESTION
You have stated in FOI 4859 that the Fifth Principle of the Data Protection Act states:
'Personal data for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than necessary for that purpose or those purposes.'
And that for UC:
"new claims will be held open for 14 months if there are no changes in circumstances."
Whereas In response to FOI 4843 you stated:
“UC claims are kept open for 6 months in live service. The UC claimant can then retrieve their data via a Data Protection Request. UC full service accounts can currently be accessed indefinitely."
Could you explain this apparent contradiction - is the FOI 4859 response this is purely talking about keeping a UC claim open ( eg so that it can be returned to under a Rapid Reclaim) or whether it also applies to the retention of data including journal entries.

ANSWER
A claimant’s Universal Credit account cannot be accessed indefinitely. If a claimant is reclaiming within 6 months, they can reclaim and access their Universal Credit records.
Anything outside of the 6 months period; claimants will have to start the process of claiming again.
A claimant’s Universal Credit account will not be open for 14 months; our data retention period is 14 months. The reclaim period is 6 months.
Click here to see the original.


QUESTION
Please supply any guidance / internal procedures that states that:
1. Explicit consent must be renewed after three hours. We have twice heard that a DWP representative at a service centre has stated that if explicit consent was provided by a claimant more than 3 hours before the named representative managed to get through to them, it was too late as the explicit consent "expires" and has to be provided again.
2. A named representative can only discuss a matter with the DWP once - even where it is exactly the same matter and the discussion/question/information is a follow-up to the previous call about exactly the same issue and exactly the same person. We have heard that someone was refused when they rang back to find out the information that could not be provided originally. Perhaps there is a "switch off consent" button that is automatically applied after one call.
Also…
3. While researching to see if my questions had already been answered, I noted that in FOI 476 your department stated: "In October 2016 we published the complete UC full service guidance in the House of Commons library. This is available to the public via the following link, deposit reference “DEP2016-0778”.
The consent guidance requested is not yet available via the link provided, this is because it is yet to be created.
I've had a look at the Deposited Papers and there doesn't appear to be anything yet but please tell me if it is there. If possible, could you let me know if the Deposited papers is going to be the only place for all UC guidance etc now? For example the Personal Budgeting Support Guide, which used to be easy to find on gov.uk is now very difficult to find especially for the general public.

ANSWER
1.Explicit consent is not indefinite. Once provided by the claimant, it only lasts until either:
the specific request for information is resolved or the end of the Assessment Period after the one in which the consent was given.
The consent expiry date must be entered in the claimants profile every time. If the query remains unresolved at the consent expiry date, the date should be reviewed and extended to the end of the next Assessment Period if necessary. The claimant can withdraw their consent at any stage by either:
making an entry on the journal face to face in a jobcentre by phone
2.This was not specifically answered, however as it says above that “once provided by the claimant, it only lasts until either…”, we have taken that any discussion with the DWP should be kept open unless the explicit consent expires.
3.The guidance for consent is due to be published in the next deposit of guidance in the House of Commons library in the near future. There are no plans to publish the Universal Credit guidance elsewhere.
Click here to see the original.