Bishop of Durham asks about prevention of debts for universal credit recipients

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 21st March 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report An Essentials Guarantee: Reforming Universal Credit to ensure we can all afford the essentials in hard times, published on 27 February, which found that “95 per cent of people on Universal Credit facing debt deductions are going without essentials”, what steps they are taking to prevent debt from being (1) generated, and (2) sustained, in the social security system.

Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con): The DWP takes significant steps to ensure the accuracy of all benefit payments, and figures released in May 2022 showed the overwhelming majority of benefit, nearly 95%, was paid correctly. There are a number of measures in place to minimise the risk of debt, such as a quality checking regime and the use of HMRC’s Real Time Information.

Where errors do occur with UC payments, the DWP takes steps to detect them at the earliest opportunity. Where debt does arise, and a person feels they cannot afford the proposed rate of recovery, they are encouraged to contact the DWP. When they do, we work with them to review their financial circumstances and, in most instances, agree a temporary reduction in their rate of repayment.

We remain committed to His Majesty’s Treasury’s Breathing Space policy, which provides those with problem debt (where applicable) the right to legal protections from creditor action for a period of 60 days.


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