Claimants are expected to state factual details in their application to claim state benefits as fraudulent data can lead to a claim sanction by the DWP. Through this blog post, we will explain the role of the Risk Review Team for Universal Credit. We will also discuss how the work review meetings of UC claimants aim to reduce such risks and how a claimant can keep the DWP updated on a change in their circumstances so that their Universal Credit payments are not sanctioned through a reduction or complete refusal by the authorities.

What Is The Risk Review Team For Universal Credit?

The Risk Review Team assesses claims on the basis of:

  • fraud
  • error
  • missing information

The aim of their reviews is to complete missing documents, correct errors in records and detect claims fraud so that such claims can be sanctioned/stopped and the risk of misuse of state funds minimised and in the best case scenarios, completely avoided.

The Risk Review Team has access to the personal records of claimants available with the Department for Work and Pensions. They use these records to search for the following:

  • missing evidence of claimant’s statements
  • outdated evidence and statements
  • incorrect evidence provided by claimants

For this purpose, they select a sample of the administrative records and audit the evidence provided by claimants such as bank account information, identification and health records, etc.

According to the DWP, they would deem a claim as a fraudulent one if the evidence available in the records fails to meet conditions for the claimants to be eligible for the benefit, or the rate of benefit in terms of payment received. When the claimant can reasonably be expected to be aware of the effect of such information on their entitlement of the benefit, they will either be charged with a claim sanction or the benefit will be stopped altogether. 

On the other hand, if a claimant has either provided incorrect information in the first place or failed to correct/update information after a change of circumstance; without the intention to deliberately attempt a fraud, it will be termed as a claimant error.

In certain cases, there can be an official error during the claim’s approval process during which an official of the HMRC or DWP has erroneously overlooked incorrect or incomplete information provided by the claimant. The Risk Review Team aims to correct this error through its process of investigation and assessment.

In case of benefits sanctions imposed by the Risk Review Team, there can be no appeal by claimants to reverse the decision.

What Happens At A Universal Credit Commitments Review Meeting?

A commitments review meeting is a basic discussion between the work coach from the job centre at DWP and a Universal Credit claimant to assess the individual’s ability to keep up with their Claimant Commitment as well as provide support and guidance to encourage progress. If the claimant has experienced a change in circumstances that can potentially affect their Universal Credit claim, they are expected to share such updates with their work coach during this session so that a new Claimant Commitment can be drafted, if need be.

These meetings are held regularly either through a phone call or a visit to the local job centre and it is mandatory for claimants to attend the review to keep their work coach updated on their progress regarding the commitments made with regards to their Universal Credit claim.

During a commitments review meeting, a work coach may inquire the claimant regarding the nature and quality of activities involved in searching for a job, the amount of time spent in such activities as well as the outcomes of such activities. Claimants are advised to keep evidence of their work search ready during such sessions. These may include printouts of their resumes, job posts that they have applied to, feedback from potential employers, etc.

If a work coach is not satisfied with the progress (or lack of it) regarding finding a job from the claimant’s side or finds out that they have not been able to keep up with the terms agreed in their claimant commitment, they may impose a sanction on the UC claim. This means that if a UC claimant is unable to perform desired tasks related to work search or work preparation, their UC payments can be reduced or stopped temporarily. 

Which Change In Circumstances Should I Inform The DWP About?

If you have experienced a change in your personal circumstances such as the following situations, you must inform your work coach of them during the commitments review meeting as it will impact the terms of your Claimant Commitment:

  • personal circumstances such as child care or health concerns as that may affect your work-related responsibilities
  • personal skills that you may have acquired 
  • your educational qualifications and work experience
  • the type of job you aim to apply for
  • the number of hours you are willing to work

Additionally, if you have experienced any of the following changes, you are expected to inform your work coach as it will bear an impact on your Universal Credit payments:

  • a new mobile number, postal or email address
  • a change in your bank details
  • change of residence due to moving in with a partner
  • having a child
  • changes to your health condition
  • being unable to work due to an illness
  • starting to care for a child or disabled person
  • finding or finishing a job
  • changes to your earnings, savings, investments
  • changes to rental payments
  • changes to your immigration status (in case you’re not a British citizen)

What Do They Ask You In A Universal Credit Phone Appointment?

In addition to your personal identification details, you can be asked about any of the following areas of your life during a phone appointment with regards to the Universal Credit claim:

  • your identification details from your passport or driving license
  • your postcode
  • your NI number
  • your bank account, building society or credit union account number 
  • your monthly rental payments
  • your landlord’s address 
  • details of your savings and capital investments
  • details of your income and benefits
  • details of any child care payments made by you
  • child benefit reference numbers (if any)

You may also be asked questions regarding the following areas of your personal life:

  • if you have any children (and how many)
  • whether or not you have a partner
  • if you think you will struggle to pay for childcare
  • if you have a disability or health condition
  • whether you are looking after someone with a disability or health condition
  • if you’ve experienced a personal loss in the recent 6 months
  • if you are being treated for alcohol or drug addiction
  • whether you have difficulty in reading or writing 
  • if you are homeless
  • if you have to do jury service 
  • whether you will struggle to pay for travel
  • if you have experienced domestic abuse

What Is A Work Capability For Assessment?

If your Universal Credit claim is based on medical conditions that prevent you from working, you will be asked by the DWP to provide evidence for such a claim and undergo an assessment process. This is termed as a Work Capability for Assessment (WCA) and its purpose is to confirm the medical or disability claim made by applicants of Universal Credit.

During the assessment, applicants will be asked questions (in person or through a video call) regarding their health and how their conditions impact not just their ability to work but also to perform everyday chores.

After this assessment, a WCA form or a UC50 is sent to applicants who will fill in the required information before posting the completed form to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) by the date requested.

After your form has been assessed, the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments will send their feedback report to the Universal Credit department at the Department of Work and Pensions. On the basis of your WCA, a decision will be made regarding whether you are fit to work and if you should be granted limited capability for work or will be assigned limited capability for work and work activity.

Conclusion:

Through this blog post, we have been able to conclude that a Risk Review Team is responsible for assessing and monitoring evidence provided by Universal Credit claimants in terms of factual correctness and relevancy. If they find an error on the part of the claimant, they will ask for it to be corrected; however, in the case of a deliberate misstatement of facts by claimants, they also have the authority of instilling sanctions through reduced benefits payments or complete refusal of them.

FAQs: What Is The Risk Review Team For Universal Credit?

How long does it take for Universal Credit to review your claim?

Once your application for Universal Credit is approved, it generally takes between 5 to 6 weeks for the first payment to be received. You will continue receiving monthly payments from thereon.

What questions does Universal Credit ask?

During your assessment interview with Univeral Credit, you will be asked questions regarding your income, savings, household expenses and even personal questions related to marital status, children and general health. The purpose of these questions is for the Department of Work and Pensions to decide the amount of Universal Credit that should be allotted to you as monthly payments.

How many hours do you have to work on Universal Credit?

In most cases, Universal Credit claimants are expected to spend 16 hours per week working at a paid job or looking for work. Sometimes, claimants will be required to undergo training in preparation for their job search while at other times they will need to furnish evidence of their working hours or job searches such as emails to potential employers or updating and printing of their resume.

Does Universal Credit ask for bank statements?

Yes, Universal Credit will ask for your bank statements to assess your financial situation.  In addition to this, you will also have to provide them with your bank account details, building society or credit union account.

How long can I stay on Universal Credit?

Claimants can stay on Universal Credit as long as long as they are considered to be on low income or unable to work by the authorities.

References:

DWP to review six benefits for ‘fraud and error’ including Universal Credit and State Pension – Daily Record

Social Security Benefits: Disqualification

Universal Credit and your claimant commitment – GOV.UK

Understanding Universal Credit – What you need to do on Universal Credit.

Universal credit and you

Universal credit interviews

Preparing for your Universal Credit interview

Universal Credit interview, work coach and activities

Going to your Universal Credit interview – Citizens Advice

Universal Credit: Report a change of circumstances – GOV.UK

Understanding Universal Credit – How earnings affect Universal Credit

Health conditions, disability and Universal Credit – GOV.UK

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.