THREE judges have ruled that Universal Credit assessment dates are “irrational and unfair” after it pushed four single mums into poverty and forced them to rely on foodbanks.
The ruling could potentially help around 85,000 claimants who are left skint and out of pocket because sometimes two paydays falls into the same assessment period.
Today’s court ruling could see 85,000 Universal Credit payments better off [/caption]
This can happen when a person’s monthly pay day changes because it was otherwise fall onto a weekend or bank holiday.
The flaw in the system can make it look like someone is paid twice in one month and none in others, affecting how much benefit they’re paid.
Today’s ruling could see thousands of struggling Brits in similar situations get extra money each month.
Mum Danielle Johnson, 26, from West Yorkshire, was left £500 a year worse off due to the loophole when she worked as a part-time dinner lady.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes five weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn:The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
Because of the way her payday fell in some months, she was denied the work allowance element from her Universal Credit payments.
Danielle and three other mums – Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart – originally challenged the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) back in 2018.
The technical blunder left all of them in rent arrears, caused them to default on council tax, saw them slapped with overdraft charges and forced to rely on foodbanks.
The DWP had initially argued that it was the fault of the employers but this has now been overturned.
Today, the government department said that fixing the issue would costs £7.35million and involve manually calculating benefit payments for those claimants who are affected by the loophole.
Lady Justice Rose slammed the desperate situation caused by the benefit system “perverse” and that she “cannot accept that the programme cannot be modified” to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The problem affects those who’s pay day can change depending on where a weekend or bank holiday falls in a particular month.
For example, those who are paid on the last working day of the month are likely to be affected by this.
Universal Credit is calculated based on your income during the same set period for every month, for example from the 30th of one month until the 29th of the next.
But someone who’s pay day is moved forward by a few days because their normal pay day would fall on a weekend or bank holiday could end up receiving two salary payments in one assessment period.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you’re falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you’re part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You’ll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You’ll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren’t enough to cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you’re really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
This can take them over the earnings threshold and reduce the amount Universal Credit they can get, or even leave them with no help despite technically earning the same income.
After the judgement was delivered, Danielle, who was represented by Leigh Day solicitors, said: “I find it unbelievable that the government has fought this case in the courts for so many years, it should not have taken the Court of Appeal to tell them something which is just a matter of common sense.”
Leigh Day solicitor Tessa Gregory who represented Danielle said: “The Secretary of State committed to a “test and learn” approach in rolling out Universal Credit yet she refused to listen to these four hard working mums when they raised this issue over two years ago.”
Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) solicitor Carla Clarke, who represented the three other mums said: “It’s a credit to these mothers that having exhausted everything they could do to try and address the situation themselves, they were prepared to go to court to get the situation corrected for themselves and to prevent others from experiencing the hardship, stress and humiliation that they experienced.
“The DWP now needs to take action to prevent this happening to the many thousands of working parents who find themselves in the same situation.”
The ruling means that the DWP now need to make adjustments to the way the benefit system assesses earnings when claimants regular monthly pay dates fall close to the end of their assessment period.
It is yet to announce how it plans to implement the changes and when it hopes to do this by.
A spokesperson for the DWP told The Sun: “DWP and HMRC continue to work with employers to make them aware how to correctly report payments for wages using contractual pay dates.
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“We are carefully considering the court’s decision as part of our ongoing work.”
The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign is demanding ministers make more changes to the system to help struggling Brits before its too late.
We’ve told heartbreaking tales of how Brits are drowning in thousands of pounds worth of debt waiting for help, and have had to give up work due to the complicated childcare system.