PLP’s evidence to the Public Accounts Committee has some of the answers, and it has now been published.


In August, PLP told the Public Accounts Committee our key concerns about DWP policies including: benefits deductions, conditionality, cost of living payments, and the lack of transparency around its use of automated decision-making.

For a deep dive into PLP’s analysis of the fairness, lawfulness and effectiveness of all this, and our recommendations, read our evidence in full.

The highlights

Automated decisions: How can the DWP be more transparent and reduce potential harm?

The DWP has consistently failed to tell the public about the algorithms they already use to make decisions about real people’s lives, like one that flags potential welfare fraud and decides who should be investigated.

And when PLP has made requests for information, we repeatedly encountered blanket refusals to provide even trivial details.

Our recommendations to DWP:

  •  Share publicly information about automated systems in use and how they work
  • Ensure automated systems are reliable, fair and do not discriminate
  • Tell people when automated decisions have been made that affect them

Welfare: How can DWP reduce harm caused by a punitive system?

PLP gave specific examples of how people are harmed by DWP decisions including on benefits sanctions, deductions and recovery of overpayments.

In our evidence, we shared the example of a cancer patient who asked the DWP to waive his debt, which had come from an overpayment caused by an administrative error. Despite providing medical evidence confirming that his stress about the debt could exacerbate his illness, the DWP told him to wait until the deduction came into effect before asking them to reconsider.

Our recommendations to DWP:

  • Assess how people are actually affected by deductions
  • Pause benefits sanctions and reduce the maximum rate of overpayments to reflect the cost-of-living crisis
  • Write off all historic Tax Credit Overpayment Debt and most overpayments resulting from DWP error
  • Clearly tell claimants about deductions, as well as their right to request that the deduction be waived
  • Review the approach to conditionality – the overwhelming evidence is that it does not help people get into work