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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the largest government department in the United Kingdom, and is responsible for welfare and pension policy.

The department has four operational organisations: Jobcentre Plus administers working age benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, and decides which claimants receive Employment and Support Allowance; the Pension Service which pays the Basic State Pension and Pension Credit and provides information on related issues; Disability and Carers Service which provides financial support to disabled people and their carers; and the Child Maintenance Group which provides the statutory Child Support Schemes, operating as the Child Support Agency and the Child Maintenance Service.

History

The department was created on 8 June 2001 as a merger of the Department of Social Security, Employment Service and the policy groups of the Department for Education and Employment involved in employment policy and international issues.[6][7][8]

The department was initially tasked with creating Jobcentre Plus and the Pensions Service from the remains of the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency.[7] The department is therefore responsible for welfare and pension policy.[9] It aims “to help its customers become financially independent and to help reduce child poverty”.[10]

In 2019 the department was found by an independent inquiry to have broken its own rules, in a case where a disabled woman killed herself in 2017 after her benefits were stopped when she missed a Work Capability Assessment because she had pneumonia.[11] Previous research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by Oxford University and Liverpool University had found that there were an additional 590 suicides between 2010 and 2013 in areas where such assessments were carried out. The researchers said that the DWP had introduced the policy of moving people off benefits without understanding the consequences.[12]

Ministers

The DWP Ministers are:[13][14]

Minister Title Portfolio
The Rt Hon. Amber Rudd MP Secretary of State Overall responsibility for the department; people of working age; employers; pensioners; families and children; disabled people.
Justin Tomlinson MP Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work Cross-government disability issues, work and health strategy, disability employment, support for those at risk of falling out of work, financial support for sick and disabled claimants, specific welfare and health-related issues, and oversight of the Health and Safety Executive and the Office for Nuclear Regulation
Mims Davies MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State TBC
Guy Opperman MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions and Financial Inclusion Pensioner benefits, including new State Pension, Winter Fuel Payments and Pension Credit; private and occupational health, including regulatory powers and the National Employment Savings Trust; automatic enrolment into a workplace pension; oversight of arms-length bodies, including the Pensions Regulator, Pension Protection Fund, Financial Assistance Scheme and Pensions Ombudsman; financial guidance, including the Single Financial Guidance Body, Financial Inclusion Policy Forum and Post Office Card Accounts.
Will Quince MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance Cross-DWP Commons spokesperson, workless families, relationship support and support for disadvantaged groups, childcare and maternity benefits, financial support for housing, other social assistance, and benefit cap implementation and benefit uprating
Baroness Stedman-Scott Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Lords) Cross-DWP Lords spokesperson, fraud, error and debt strategy, national insurance number policy, oversight of departmental statutory instruments and managing the relationship with the Social Security Advisory Committee, departmental planning and performance management, and departmental business
Baroness Williams of Trafford Minister of State for Equalities
(jointly with the Equalities Office)
TBC
Victoria Atkins MP Minister of State for Women
(jointly with the Equalities Office)
TBC

The Permanent Secretary is Peter Schofield.[5]

Pension Service

The Pension Service’s logo

With the creation of the department in June 2001, the Pension Service was created, bringing together many different departments and divisions. The Pension Service is a ‘dedicated service for current and future pensioners’.[15]

The Pension Service consists of local Pension Centres and centrally-based centres, many of latter are based at the Tyneview Park complex in Newcastle upon Tyne. At Tyneview Park the following centres are found:

  • Future Pension Centre (FPC) provides state pension forecasts for people approaching retirement age.[16]
  • Newcastle Pension Centre (NPC) originally dealt with the London area, the Home Counties, and part of West Midlands. Now the service is virtual so all pension centres deal with all areas of the country.[17]
  • Pension Tracing Service (PTS) helps track old pensions and pension schemes.[18]
  • International Pension Centre (IPC) deals with all enquiries regarding the payment of state pension, bereavement benefits, incapacity benefits and other such benefits for those living abroad.[19]

Local Pension Centres deal with localised claims for state pension and retirement related benefits. Pension Centres are found all over the country. Benefits dealt with at local Pension Centres include:

Disability and Carers Service

The Disability and Carers Service offers financial support for those who are disabled and their carers, whether in or out of employment. The DCS have offices throughout the country and deal with the following benefits:[20]

The department has been found to frequently invite disabled people to interviews in buildings which are themselves not accessible to people with disabilities. When the person does not attend the interview they deny the person disability benefits, causing malnutrition and destitution. [21][22] The DWP systematically underpaid disabled claimants who were transferred from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support allowance risking hardship for claimants. A cross party committee of MP’s, the Public Accounts Committee accused the DWP of a culture of indifference to claimants.[23]

Former structure

Before 2008, The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service were two separate executive agencies; however it was decided in April 2008 to merge them into one entity named The Pension, Disability and Carers Service.[24]

Both former agencies kept their corporate branding and provided services under their separate identities. The decision was made due to the two agencies sharing about half of the same customers; as a single agency, the rationalisation of services would provide a better service for customers.[25]

The status of PDCS as an executive agency (and its existence as a merged entity) was removed on 1 October 2011 with the functions being brought back inside the department; and both The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service becoming distinct entities once again.[26] Prior to July 2012 the Child Support Agency was the operating arm of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).

All are now operated wholly from within the department, with the names continuing as brand identifiers.

DWP buildings at Quarry Hill, Leeds (known locally as ‘The Pink Palace’ and ‘The Kremlin’)

Public bodies and estate

The department’s public bodies include:[27]

The department has corporate buildings in London, Leeds, Blackpool, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle upon Tyne, Warrington and Sheffield. Jobcentre Plus, The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service operate through a network of around 1,000 Jobcentres, contact centres and benefit processing centres across the UK.

Budget

The total annual budget of the department in 2011-12 is £151.6 billion, representing approximately 28% of total UK Government spending.[28] The department spends a far greater share of national wealth than any other department in Britain, by a wide margin. The department spends an average of £348.9 million with suppliers a month.[29]

A report of February 2012 stated that a sum amounting to billions of pounds of money payable through possible benefit claims had not been claimed. In 2009-2010 the Dept stated £1.95 billion job-seekers allowance, £2 billion income support and employment and support allowance, £2.4 billion in council tax, £2.8bn in pension credit and £3.1 billion for housing benefit; in total £12.25 billion had not been claimed.[30]

Research

The department is a major commissioner of external social science research, with the objective of providing the evidence base needed to inform departmental strategy, policy-making and delivery.[31] The department has developed and uses various microsimulation and other models, including the Policy Simulation Model (for appraisal of policy options), Pensim2 (to create projections of pension entitlements up to 2100) and Inform (to produce the department’s benefit caseload forecasts). Datasets held include the LLMDB and the Family Resources Survey.

During 2012 the department announced records of the number of people born outside of the United Kingdom (“non-UK nationals”) claiming work-related benefits from 2011, using data already collated within the department together with those of HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency[32] (whose duties are now fulfilled by UK Visas and Immigration).

Devolution and parity

Employment, health and safety, and social security policy are reserved matters in Scotland.[33]

Northern Ireland has parity with Great Britain in three areas:

Policy in these areas is technically devolved but, in practice, follows policy set by Parliament to provide consistency across the United Kingdom.[34] Employment and health and safety policy are fully devolved.

The department’s main counterparts in Northern Ireland are:

Controversy

In August 2015 the department admitted using fictional stories from made-up claimants on leaflets advertising the positive impact of benefit sanctions, following a Freedom of Information request from Welfare Weekly,[35] claiming that they were for “illustrative purposes only”[36][37] and that it was “quite wrong” to pass these off as genuine quotes.[38]

Later that month figures were released which showed that between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,650 people died shortly after their Work Capability Assessment told them that they should be finding work.[39] The DWP had fought hard for the figures not to be released, with chief minister Iain Duncan Smith at one point telling Parliament that they did not exist.[40]