When Jan was 32 weeks pregnant she was told to move from ESA to Universal Credit. As a result, due to the delayed first payment, for her final weeks of pregnancy and early weeks of motherhood she will be on short rations. When Jan told us this we thought we should find out what was going on, and how many other new mothers might be affected. This is what we have learnt.
If you live in a Universal Credit Full Service area, as here in Dundee, then every new claim for a means-tested working-age benefit will be in the Universal Credit system.
If you are pregnant and on JSA, then you will have no choice but to change benefit. When you start getting maternity pay you are no longer looking for work, so no longer entitled to JSA. In the past you could apply for Income support; now, if you live in a Full Service area, it has to be Universal Credit, complete with delays.
If you are on ESA when you get pregnant, you can remain on ESA. Problems should only arise if you need to claim a new benefit – for example if this is your first child and you have to make a new claim for Child Tax Credit. Of course this doesn’t mean that the DWP won’t try and make you apply for Universal Credit when you don’t have to – so, before you change system, get professional advice if you can. (If you’ve been given incorrect instructions from the DWP, there is still scope for complaints and claims for compensation.)
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When the chaos and devastation being caused by Universal Credit briefly hit the headlines in the Autumn, the UK Government responded with some minor concessions, but the great majority of the problems still remain. As a reminder of this, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has called a national day of action on Thursday 1st March. Actions will include protests outside Dundee Jobcentre from 12 till 2 (called by the SUWN) and outside Leith Jobcentre from 1 till 2.30 (called by ECAP). So long as there are problems there will be protests!
(Thanks – again – to CPAG for clarifying things for us.)