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Regional publisher runs Universal Credit probe involving more than 1,000 FoI requests

A regional publisher’s investigations team has revealed the results of a major probe into Universal Credit involving more than 1,000 Freedom of Information requests.

JPIMedia’s investigations team, made up of journalists working across the UK, has been looking into the controversial benefits system and found that more than half a million calls to the Universal Credit helpline have gone unanswered in the first three months of this year.

In what the company has termed a “landmark move” for a JPIMedia investigation, the findings have been published in an interactive, in-depth read on the website of national daily the i.

Versions of the investigation have also been published by titles including The Scotsman, Belfast News Letter, Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Lancashire Post, Blackpool daily The Gazette, Peterborough Telegraph, Portsmouth daily The News, Sussex Express and Sunderland Echo.

How the Lancashire Post covered the investigation

How the Lancashire Post covered the investigation

Other major findings include the fact that claimants behind on rent in local authority-owned homes owe, on average, twice the amount of those on the old Housing Benefit, and that local authorities are missing out on many millions of pounds a year in unpaid council tax from those on Universal Credit, despite the system initially aiming to save the taxpayer money.

Claire Wilde, JPIMedia’s news editor of data and investigations, said: “This proved a great launch investigation for JPIMedia’s refreshed team. Our investigation shines a light on the justified misgivings of this new benefits system.

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate across our different titles to ensure we do our bit pushing for change in the interest of the communities we serve.”

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, added: “This important investigation is a shocking reminder that Universal Credit is clearly failing.”