DWP Risk Review Team

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:21 pm on 26 January 2022.

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Photo of Kate Osamor Kate Osamor Labour/Co-operative, Edmonton 4:21, 26 January 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the Department for Work and Pensions’ Risk Review Team.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Twigg. Today, I will talk about the Department for Work and Pensions risk review team, which was set up in May 2020. The DWP states that the team’s role is to

“review and take action on cases identified” by the integrated risk and intelligence service as being “a high fraud risk.”

I was first alerted to the team’s existence in October 2021, when my constituency office began to receive contact from what would become a total of 29 constituents who had had their universal credit payments suspended indefinitely under almost identical circumstances. Those constituents are all Bulgarian nationals and tend to have either settled status or pre-settled status. Time and again, my office was told that the cases were under the management of the risk review team, with little to no further explanation of the reason, apart from some claims of suspicion of fraud. Constituents told me that their claims were suspended for months on end—as long as 11 months, in the worst case. Although that particular constituent’s claim has now been restored, they have received no compensation for the hardship caused.

The DWP provides no timeframe for the completion of the reviews, nor a right of appeal. A significant number of those constituents are single mothers who work part time. This situation has left them in a completely crippling financial position and pushed many into serious destitution—relying on food banks, facing eviction from their homes and racking up serious amounts of debt. One constituent, whom I will call Maria, is a constituent of mine only after she lost her home in Liverpool as a result of having her benefits suspended, and subsequently moved to Edmonton.

From the cases my office has been handling, a number of constituents have since had their universal credit payments restored and backdated, as there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.