Key recommendations

Recommendations for DWP

  1. Use a combination of the Faster Payments system and automation of the calculation to shorten and eventually eliminate the seven-day calculation and payment period.
  2. To reduce the number of claimants getting into debt, a two-week payment and assessment cycle should be available as an option for all claimants during the application process.
  3. Claimants should be able to change the duration and dates of payment cycles if, for example, they move from employment that pays weekly to monthly.
  4. Claimants should be empowered to take responsibility about how payments are split between them, their partner and their landlord. Choices should be designed into the application and onboarding process and should be available for all claimants in the UK.
  5. There should be additional routes to add entries into the ‘journal’ in the digital account. For example, a claimant should be able to submit information via SMS. The messages that are sent to claimants should also be redesigned to give more context.
  6. Additional information should be added to the digital account so that claimants can understand when automated decisions have been made and when a delegate, or member of DWP staff have accessed their account.
  7. Run a discovery project to look for opportunities to use automation and data to remove the administrative burden from claimants.
  8. Work with banks, childcare providers and job search websites to provide new ways of reporting data into the digital account.
  9. Create simpler methods for claimants to prove entitlement to passported benefits.
  10. Commission research into the impact of Universal Credit on the wider public finances, (e.g. to the Ministry of Justice regarding additional demands on the tribunal system), and the cost to claimants of using digital channels.
  11. Rethink Universal Credit as a shared digital platform that DWP and civil society organisations can build services on top of. This will require the department to rethink its approach to delegation.
  12. Conduct research into the privacy implications for claimants of moving jobcentres to libraries.
  13. Stop publishing monthly and quarterly statistics and move to a model of detailed, consistent, real-time publication of data using the GOV.UK performance platform.
  14. Publish information about the categories of activities required of claimants via their to-do lists.
  15. Create and maintain public registers that describe the systems used to deliver Universal Credit.
  16. Create and maintain a public archive of design changes to the digital account.
  17. Proactively publish as much of the documentation from its design and development cycle as possible. This should include findings from user research and post-deployment impact reports.
  18. Accountability, understandability and trust should become core design principles of the Universal Credit service. To achieve this, DWP should work to understand the needs of organisations who might hold them to account.

Recommendations for government and ministers

  1. A unified digital process for appealing decisions should be created and be accessible from the digital account. It should work across DWP, HMRC and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) systems.
  2. HMRC’s RTI system and DWP’s Real Time Earnings (RTE) system should be reimagined as a shared, cross-government platform, independent from HMRC and DWP. It should have product management that is empowered to protect the privacy of the public and meet the needs of users across government, not just of one department.
  3. Commission research into the potential of jobcentres as a shared cross-government resource for providing face-to-face support for digital services.
  4. Review the data Universal Credit requires to personalise and means-test. They should look for opportunities to rationalise it, with the aim of reducing the overall complexity of the policy, its administrative burden and privacy impact.
  5. The concept of ‘responsibility’ in Universal Credit should be reset to become less about conformity with a particular worldview, and more about ensuring the design of the policy meets the desired outcomes with the grain of people’s lives.

Recommendations for the Government Digital Service (GDS)

  1. Work with DWP and other departments to index datasets and reports published about specific digital public services. It should be possible to find all the datasets and reports that relate to Universal Credit.
  2. Conduct user research with academic researchers and civil society organisations to understand what information about digital public services should be in the public domain.
  3. Work with DWP to publish a Universal Credit systems register and design archive on GOV.UK.
  4. Identify gaps in the GOV.UK Design System around design patterns for appealing decisions, delegating access, explaining when delegates or agents have accessed an account, and automated decisions or calculations.

Recommendations for civil society

  1. Identify opportunities to create new digital services, operated by civil society organisations, built on top of the digital account.
  2. Follow the lead of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) by advocating for specific design changes to the digital account.
  3. Advocate for greater access to fine-grained, real-time data about how the digital account is being used. If DWP does not respond, start collating the data independently.
  4. Advocate for a design archive of changes to the digital account. If DWP does not respond, start creating an independent archive.