JUSTICEHe has made recommendations to reform the UK’s benefits system.

The new report contains 44 recommendations to improve the administrative and procedural aspects the benefits system.

It takes into account all aspects of decision-making from the initial to the appeals stage to ensure that everyone is able to use the system regardless of their digital capabilities, their health, disabilities or vulnerabilities.

These are some of the key recommendations:

  • Improvements to improve the quality and efficiency of the disability and health assessment process include: opt-in audio recording; better clarity about who will receive medical evidence; claimants being evaluated by specialists with knowledge of their condition; and ending the outsourcing of assessments for private companies.
  • Improved data collection and evaluation, including protection characteristics of claimants. The setting of claimant obligations, the use easements, and sanctions.
  • Clear structures and rules are required to avoid the incoherent and unfair application discretion. This includes a list of statutory ‘good reasons’ to not comply with the claimant’s commitment.
  • Transparency in the use of automation, and how it influences decisions and technological constraints of computer systems.
  • Establishing clear standards of public performance and an independent regulator or reviewer for welfare benefits.
  • Removal of mandatory reconsideration so claimants can appeal directly to the Social Security Tribunal. However, there is an automatic internal review that must be done by the Social Security Tribunal.DWPOnce an appeal has been filed.
  • Streamlining appeals processes to make it easier for appellants not to provide the same information repeatedly. Increased use of tribunal caseworkers in order to reduce adjournments.
  • Adopting a “no wrong door” approach to managing a claim and applying for universal credit, as well as meaningful alternative channels of engagement.
  • A portal providing information about organizations that provide welfare benefits advice. This should be clearly indicated on all pages providing information on benefits, all forms on paper, decision letters, and mandatory reconsideration notices.

JUSTICE directorAndrea Coomber“The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated, more than ever before, the importance of the benefits system to people’s survival when it comes to being unable to work.” It is extremely difficult for many to navigate the financial aid system. The government should aim to make it as simple and as supportive as possible.

Standard Life FoundationProgramme managerRebecca GrahamAccording to a spokesperson, the welfare benefits system can be a lifeline for many but it is not easy to use and access. Some claimants find that the complicated process of applying, appealing, and adjusting their claims can be a significant obstacle. These recommendations are a guideline for policy makers to help them create a system that is fair for everyone.