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TV programme exposes foul play by benefit advisers

This news post is over 9 years old

​Programme airing tonight to show advisers withholding details of payments

A TV programme airing tonight (Monday, 9 March) exposes government workers being trained to avoid giving benefit claimants details of hardship payments and other emergency funds.

Benefits Britain, a Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation, shows a reporter who joined a training course at a call centre in Bolton, Greater Manchester, being told not to volunteer information about same-day advance payments or other funds intended to tide claimants over until their benefits are paid.

The reporter was also told that flexible support funds were “not advertised” and should not be mentioned unless the claimant specifically asked. “If we did [advertise], everyone would want one,” the trainer said.

The findings are likely to fuel criticism of the ambitious but long-delayed Universal Credit scheme aimed at streamlining benefit payments and accelerating claimants’ return to work.

The new payment, which claimants apply for online, combines six different working age benefits into one payment, which is paid monthly.

The introduction of Universal Credit has been described as the biggest shakeup of the welfare state since the 1940s.

A Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said call centre workers were trained to provide “administrative support over the phone”. He said conversations about emergency payments would normally take place in a Jobcentre. The spokesman said the DWP was making “every effort to ensure staff are aware of guidance” on hardship payments.