Benefit claimants told to take photo of themselves outside front door or lose support

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Ministers have adopted a “dystopian” policy of requiring universal loan claimants to send photographs of themselves in front of their homes and have a local newspaper to continue receiving benefits.

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Claimants have received messages from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on their online portal that if they do not provide all the information requested, including a photograph of them standing next to them [their] with street sign [their] right hand holding it”, he claims “will stop”.

Campaigners said the policy exposed a “dystopian culture of skepticism” in the DWP and warned that many claimants would struggle to meet requirements due to technical issues such as not having a smartphone or a lack of digital literacy.


Universal Credit director general Neil Cooling responded to a post about the message on Twitter last Tuesday, saying it looked “suspicious” — but three days later he said it was “legitimate.”

He said it was part of a process to “go back and check” that claimants who did not undergo face-to-face verification checks due to the temporary shutdown due to Covid did not “misuse” the system. It is not clear how many claimants have been affected.

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One claimant, a disabled man in his 50s from Bristol, was told by the DWP that he must send a photograph of himself holding his passport, and another “stand outside his front door with the door open and the door number Visible”.

They were told that in the meantime their payments had been stopped and would not resume until they provided photos.

The man, who earlier worked for an IT company but was on leave during the pandemic and then became redundant last December, said Granthshala She tried to take pictures alone, but the DWP told her that the passport photo was not enough and needed to be “cleared” outside her home.

Later he asked a friend to pick him up. He sent them off for a second time and the DWP officer replied that the outside of their house was “obscure again”. He sent a third set, at which point his gains resumed.

“It was a stressful experience, and I am tech-savvy. I worked in telesales for an IT company; I have an iPhone and a laptop, but what about people who have just a basic without a camera? phone?” he said.

“These are the kind of people who will probably find themselves in financial trouble in a few months. It seems like [the DWP] Making it up as it goes along. It seems to be somewhat digestible. “

Digital literacy issues and other vulnerabilities make it difficult for many claimants to submit universal credit claims online in the first place – let alone meeting such precise and obviously aggressive conditions.

Benjamin Morgan, Public Interest Law Center

In another case, a woman who cannot go out because she has agoraphobia was asked for two photographs of her in front of her house – one with her passport and the other with her local newspaper.

She explained to DWP that she has agoraphobia and does not buy local newspapers. According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), she said she would gladly present any other kind of evidence – but her claim was immediately closed.

Benjamin Morgan of the Public Interest Law Center said the demands displayed a “dystopian culture of skepticism” and “a particularly clear example of the behavior used to get people on low incomes to engage with DWP”. represented. .

“Digital literacy issues and other vulnerabilities make it difficult for many claimants to submit universal credit claims online in the first place – let alone meeting such precise and obviously aggressive conditions. “

Dr. Dora-Olivia Vicol, Chief Executive Officer work rights centerThe charity has received several of these requests, including the case of a Romanian man who was challenged digitally, and who had to assist the charity in taking photographs and submitting them.

She said the requirement “adds another technical hurdle to an already inaccessible system, and sends the message that the DWP sees claimants as suspects, not those who require immediate financial assistance”. .

“When you lack a smartphone, internet connectivity, and the digital literacy required to meet these requirements, every new journal entry is another source of concern,” Dr. Wikol said.

Mr Cooling said in a tweet that the process was “temporary” and “consistent with” [Covid] We are still subject to restrictions”, adding: “Eventually we will be able to return to interviews at JobCenter in cases of doubts about identity. So there is nothing to worry for the contenders here, they can join with confidence.”

But Sarah Ogilvy, policy director at CPAG, who met with four clients who received the request, said: “Asking claimants to provide photos in this way – at pain of their benefits being closed and other options not available – is unfair. , unfair and impossible for some claimants to follow.

“In a worst-case scenario, it increases the risk of destruction for the most vulnerable. Rather than trying to justify the practice on Twitter, DWP should find a proportionate and fair way to ensure that people get their Get the right rights.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “At the beginning of the pandemic we suspended face-to-face verification of new claims as part of our Trust & Protect plan to ensure payments are made to all legitimate claimants. We always said we would go back and verify the claims to protect the public purse, as some people sadly chose to abuse the temporary arrangements.

“We are now investigating cases and have temporarily implemented this approach in some cases where a claimant has been unable to interact with us remotely prior to the return of personal verification at JobCenter.”


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