Universal Credit has been in the news a lot this week. Amber Rudd made a big deal about changing very little; and four loan mothers, supported by CPAG, won their case against the DWP in the High Court. As the minister was claiming how UC was both simpler and fairer, the court found that the rigid, automated application of the rules calculating monthly payments could result in situations that were not only unfair, but also counter to the original regulations. There are all sorts of other situations where the accident of when the assessment period falls can result in a minefield.
Meanwhile, all sorts of errors continue to be common, as this week’s cases demonstrate.
One of our activists had received half her ESA payment early. When she contacted the DWP she was informed that this was a glitch in the system that had affected a lot of people and she would get the rest of the payment on the expected day. To the DWP, such a glitch may seem nothing to worry about, but when you are budgeting on a very low income, something like this can catch you out badly. The Mirror published a collection of worried reactions, including from people who hadn’t realised what was happening until the money was spent, leaving them short for the following month.
For John his payment seemed to be too late rather than too early. He is supposed to be being paid twice monthly, but we met him on the 9th, and according to his online journal, he wasn’t going to be paid any money until the 28th. In addition, he was also due a large back payment, as a bank error had meant that his benefit was initially paid to the wrong person. Although the money had been repaid, the DWP seemed in no hurry to transfer it to him.
Richard had waited in for a scheduled phone call from the jobcentre that never came, but the jobcentre refused to accept the error was theirs, so now he is being disciplined by having to come in every week, despite being unfit. He has just got the form to apply for a work capability assessment, and we suggested he get professional help from the Shelter drop-in.
Susan told us that she had been getting Universal Credit for some time, but when her partner also signed on and they moved to a joint claim, she found the payments were automatically transferred to his bank account. Payments for a couple are only made to one account, but you are supposed to be able to choose which. Susan has taken her case up with her MP.
For Jan, the problem was not an error, but a suggestion from her advisor that had left her shaking her head in bewilderment. She told us that her advisor hadn’t said anything about benefits, but had talked about magnetic fields and given her a leaflet about free Reiki sessions for helping with anxiety. I am sure the advisor was trying to be helpful, but this is a strange place to be promoting alternative therapy. Jan’s comment: Is she on drugs?