Universal credit error means claimants are forced to attend job centres to reset online passwords

7 February 2018, 17:49

The Government's flagship welfare programme has been dealt another blow as it was revealed claimants who forget their log-in details for the website cannot easily reset them.

Instead, universal credit online users have to attend a face-to-face interview at a job centre to receive a new password.

Ministers have been aware of the issue for more than a month but have refused to set a date to fix it.

Ged Killen, Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said he was worried for claimants as his constituency was a "full-service" area for the universal credit programme.

He had raised the issue at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, urging Theresa May to set a deadline for fixing the service.

She should delay closing any more job centres, he said, until welfare claimants could perform "basic online functions" to manage their benefits.

Mr Killen added that HMRC and some banks already offer such services.

Mrs May responded by promising to ask Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey to "look carefully at ensuring a date is identified when that change is going to be made".

The answer failed to satisfy Mr Killen, who said it was "beyond satire" that a "basic 'reset your password'" function could not be added to the benefits online portal.

"If your bank didn't let you reset your password online, you might leave and find another bank," he chided. "Universal credit claimants however are not given that choice."

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions told Sky News: "We are looking at updating our systems to allow a password reset function that maintains the highest level of protection for people's personal information."

A source added there were "security considerations" and that other online services with highly sensitive information did not easily let people request new passwords.

It is the latest in a series of controversies that has befallen the universal credit welfare programme, which combines six benefits into one single payment.

In October, the Government promised to scrap charges to its helpline after it was revealed some callers were being charged 55p a minute.

The following month, Chancellor Philip Hammond cut the waiting time for the initial payment for claimants from six weeks to five to avert the threat of a Tory rebellion.