DWP’s ‘automation’ of universal credit discriminates against single mums, researchers say

Questions are being raised about the fairness of using automated tools to distribute benefits

Problems with the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) digital universal credit (UC) system are disproportionately impacting working single mothers, raising questions about the fairness of using automated tools to distribute benefits. 

Initially rolled out in 2013, UC is a digital-by-default benefits system that uses various automated processes, including machine learning, to determine people’s eligibility for welfare, calculate benefits payments and detect fraud.

Responding to the findings of a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request – which revealed that nearly half of in-work UC claimants are single parents, the vast majority (just under 90%) of whom are women – researchers say they are concerned about the role of automation within the UC system to entrench discrimination and surveillance in people’s lives.

“A certain subsection of the population – those on low-incomes and with disabilities – are being put under surveillance by systems that simply don’t affect the rest of the population,” explained Morgan Currie, a senior lecturer in data and society at the University of Edinburgh who submitted the FOI request. 

She added that the three most common problems with universal credit’s automated processes – including mistakes caused by flawed information about earnings, hardship as a result of delayed childcare reimbursement, and a mismatch between UC calculation dates and paydays – are therefore overwhelmingly affecting working single mothers.

Read the full article at – www.bigissue.com/news/social-justice/dwp-universal-credit-claims-automation-single-mothers/

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