DWP unveils three changes to Universal Credit and hires 2,500 'external agents' to spot 'incorrect' claims

DWP logo and Universal Credit sign outside Jobcentre Plus

The DWP has updated its Fraud Plan including new changes to Universal Credit

Jessica Sheldon

By Jessica Sheldon

Published: 15/05/2024

- 11:26

The DWP plans to save £9billion by 2028 in a "sustained crackdown" on ineligible benefits claims

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is hiring thousands of new staff to review Universal Credit claims for "accuracy", in a bid to crack down on "benefits cheats".

In an updated Fraud Plan, the department said it will hire more than 2,500 "external agents" on a temporary basis to help spot incorrectness in Universal Credit.

Combined with the DWP's own internal agents investigating cases, known as the Targeted Case Review, the headcount will reach almost 6,000 people.

The DWP also announced three further changes to Universal Credit, as it checks millions of claims for accuracy.

It will see new partly automated checks on self-employed income coming into effect.

The Department will also roll out new online prompts for Universal Credit claimants to "re-declare" their circumstances - such as if they have moved in with a partner.

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They will also increase checks on capital when people claim Universal Credit, to "ensure they are eligible".

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, said: "We are scaling up the fight against those stealing from the taxpayer, building on our success in stopping £18 billion going into the wrong hands in 2022/23.

"With new legal powers, better data and thousands of additional staff, our comprehensive plan ensures we have the necessary tools to tackle the scourge of benefit fraud."

The DWP said advanced data analytics, using machine learning, will be used to detect and prevent fraudulent claims.

However, a DWP employee will continue to make the final decision on accepting or stopping a claim.

Some £70million is being invested into advanced data analytics and the DWP is planning to introduce a new civil penalty to punish fraudsters.

This new civil penalty could potentially broaden the scope of cases that can receive a penalty when the courts are not prosecuting, and increase the value of the civil penalty.

However, Mikey Erhardt, campaigner at Disability Rights UK, told The Big Issue: “At the end of the day, we all want the right support when we need it.

"We know that polls report that everyone wants extra spending on benefits, not more groundless anti-fraud measures, which, if allowed to pass, will make the UK’s social security system, already one of Western Europe’s least generous, even worse.”


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A person might be eligible to get Universal Credit if they're on a low income or need help with living costs, such as if they're out of work, working, or unable to work.

To claim Universal Credit, a person must:

  • Live in the UK
  • Be aged 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
  • Be under state pension age
  • Have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments

There are various free and independent benefits calculators online which could help a person check to see what forms of support they are eligible to get.

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