DWP minister pledges processing improvements this year as some benefits missed targets on 96% of claims in FY24

Pensions minister Paul Maynard claims that the department’s processing performance improved in 2023/24 – although many benefit lines still failed to meet targets for significant proportions of claimants, statistics have revealed

A minister has pledged that major digital reform programmes will help the Department for Work and Pensions to continue improving its processing of benefit claims this year, after some services failed to meet targets for more than 96% of cases in 2023/24.

Statistics released by pensions minister Paul Maynard reveal that only 3.5% of claims made for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) on behalf of a child were processed within the DWP’s target timeframe of 40 working days in FY24.

In every year up until 2020/21, processing targets were met in more than 90% of cases. This figure dropped off rapidly in 2021/22 to 35.6% – before sinking to the low single digits in each of the last two years.

“Demand for Child DLA has increased in recent years and is significantly higher than pre-pandemic volumes,” Maynard said. “During 2020-21, we deferred case renewal activity to focus on processing new claims. Since then, the service has had to service both high new claims volumes and the deferred renewal work which has led to longer processing times. We have increased the numbers of staff working on Child DLA to respond to increase new claims volumes, and clear cases in date order to ensure fair customer service.”

Although Child DLA was by far the worst performer in 2023/24, there were several other benefit strands where the proportion of claims processed within the intended time period is notably lower than in previous years.

Only 39.5% of claims for Employment and Support Allowance were completed within the 10-working-day target in FY24. This figure stood at 96.1% in 2019/20, but has dropped off every year since.

Personal Independence Payment claims have the longest target processing deadline: 75 working days. This was met in only 51.7% of cases in 2023/24; while this is way down on the 85% that has been achieved in prior years, it is still a marked bounceback on the 6.8% success rate of 2021/22.

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Processing of Jobseeker’s Allowance, meanwhile, continues to go in the opposition direction; after two consecutive years of decline, the success rate has dropped from 87.1% to 58.7%. The DWP’s target is to complete claims in 10 working days.

“From the start of the pandemic until April 2021, JSA claims were subject to easements that meant face-to-face appointment was remove,” Maynard said. “In April 2021, Claimant Commitments and regular face to face engagement requirements were reintroduced.”

Other benefits have posted a steadier performance. Child Maintenance claims – which have a comparatively lengthy target of 12 weeks – have achieved about 80% processing success in each of the past two years. However, this figure was close to or even above 90% from 2017 to 2020.

In better news for the department, the proportion of Pension Credit claims processed within 50 working days rose significantly in FY24 – increasing by more than 30 points to 77.7%. Although this is still some way down on the 88.2% posted in 2020/21.

State pension claims were successfully processed within the 20-working-day target for 96.2% of claimants in 2023/24 – a rise of 24 points and an all-time high figure.

The DWP’s 2023/24 statistics for Universal Credit claims are not yet available. During the prior three years, the success rate dropped slightly from 90.9% to 84.4%.

‘More needs to be done’
Maynard claimed that, overall, the DWP’s performance in processing claims had improved during FY24 – but acknowledged that it faces ongoing struggles and wants to make further improvement.

“The department has seen a sustained increase in applications and demand for DWP services as a result of the pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living pressures, as well as ongoing publicity campaigns such as Help for Households and Pension Credit take-up,” the minister said. “Whilst we have seen an overall improvement in claims processed within planned timescales, and we expect that overall performance to continue to improve in the 24-25 figures, we acknowledge that across our services more needs to be done to improve the number of claims processed within the planned timescales.”

To support improvements last year, the department brought in an extra 17,166 people, and continues to add new recruits in the current quarter, according to Maynard. Further progress will be supported by digitisation initiatives – including the £500m Service Modernisation Programme, which aims to “transform the customer experience of approximately 20 million” people, and develop a single unified service through which citizens will be able to access benefits, PublicTechnology has previously revealed.

“This level of recruitment has resulted in a net increase in our service delivery resource levels to meet customer demand,” the minister said. “We also have utilised our existing contracts with external partners to increase our service delivery capacity. Across our service lines we continue to focus on productivity improvement activities, as well as continuing to modernise our benefit services through our digital transformation and Service Modernisation programmes, which mean an increasing number of claims can now be made online and through self-service. The department strategy is to continue our modernisation programme, enable our people to focus on supporting more vulnerable customers who are unable to self-serve or need additional support.”

Maynard’s comments were made in response to several written parliamentary questions from Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle.

Sam Trendall

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