Universal Credit: Stopping the ‘Stop Notice’
By John Ryan, Welfare Benefits Case Worker, Stoke North and Staffordshire
A feature of Universal Credit claims is the ‘Stop Notice’, this is a DWP computer generated response to the submission of a UC claim and it stops all existing legacy benefits currently in pay (1), initially there’s no human intervention or verification of an individual’s true identity and only basic conditions need to be met (2), at this point the fabled 5 week wait for payment begins….and if it’s actually a genuine claim off you go to your verification interview.
But what if you are the victim of fraud? What if someone makes a claim using your details without your knowledge? As the stop notice is an internal process the claimant will be unaware of this notice until an expected payment (for e.g. ESA) fails to hit their bank account or the local housing office inform them of rent arrears due to no Housing Benefit paid to cover the rent.
Universal Credit is known as a ‘lobster pot’ – once in there is no way out, claimants have been faced with making a legitimate claim for UC in these circumstances, having been told there is no way back to their previous situation, this can be at the expense of a lower entitlement under UC than they previously had.
Fortunately, on recent occasions, where 3rd party fraud has been identified we have been able to get the ‘Stop Notice’ rescinded and legacy benefits reinstated via escalation routes through direct contact with relevant local JCP work coaches and partnership managers. There also appears to be an increased awareness within DWP of the potential for fraudulent claims based on stolen ID from vulnerable claimants particularly during the spike in UC claims due to Coronavirus lockdown; as recently as May 27th this has been highlighted by DWP management (3) and we continue to flag up any such incidents via CPAG early warning system to further inform this area of concern.
Responding yesterday (01/07/20) to a written question in parliament on the steps the DWP is taking Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince said –
‘Where a claim to universal credit was prompted by fraudulent activity, and a claimant is a victim whose details have been used to make a claim, the Department will consider the reinstatement of legacy benefits if there is clear evidence that the claimant had no involvement in the fraud, and where the claimant wishes us to do so.’
(2) Reg 8 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014, No.1230.
(3) Neil Couling (Resolution Foundation Event)