Universal Credit has been around for a while now and some specific problems have started to be reported. These areas can have a damaging effect on claimants, but most can be challenged or avoided altogether.
Work search expectations are being set too high
There are certain situations where the work search requirements are automatically relaxed, but other situations where Jobcentre staff can decide how many hours of work search are required. In many cases this discretion is not being used and this is leaving people at risk of being sanctioned. Commitments should be negotiated with your work coach if the standard 35 hours per week would be a problem, such as if you have caring responsibilities, physical or mental health problems, or are responsible for a child under 13 years old.
Only half of the rent is being covered
There have been issues where only 50% of the housing costs are awarded where there is either a couple claiming but only one person is on the tenancy, or where there is a single person claiming but there is another person on the tenancy agreement, for example where a partner has left but there is still a joint tenancy. In a lot of cases this is incorrect and should be challenged.
Fines have been issued for not paying for prescriptions
There is currently no box on the back of prescriptions to tick for being in receipt of Universal Credit and the NHS website says to tick the income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance box. However, some people have reported being fined because they have ticked this box, even if they are eligible for free prescriptions due to being in receipt of Universal Credit. These fines should be challenged.
Universal Credit is not including an element for a child until Child Benefit is awarded
Some people have been refused additional Universal Credit for a new child until Child Benefit has been awarded, which could be a delay of a few months. This is incorrect and the extra money should be awarded based on a birth certificate and a letter from a GP.
A deduction is being made for a non-dependant, even when the claimant gets disability benefits
There should be no non-dependant deduction if the Universal Credit claimant receives Disability Living Allowance middle or high rate care, or Personal Independence Payment daily living component, but this is being missed due to the design of the Universal Credit claim process.
People caring for others for 35 hours per week are not getting any extra help
The rules about carers are different under Universal Credit and extra money can be payable to anyone who provides this level of care to a disabled person. There are no special rules about whether the carer is working or how much they earn. Any caring responsibilities should be reported to ensure the correct premiums are added.
People are being told to claim Universal Credit even when they don’t need to
There are only certain changes of circumstances which mean you have to claim Universal Credit. Some people may be much worse off under the Universal Credit system, but once a claim has been made there is usually no way of going back to the old system. They will also lose out on the income guarantee that is offered to people who are forced to move over to Universal Credit when it is fully rolled out. It is best to get advice before making a claim to make sure it is necessary and that you won’t be losing out.
People moving from Employment & Support Allowance to Universal Credit aren’t being paid correctly
People who have been found unfit for work whilst claiming Employment & Support Allowance may be entitled to additional components in their claim. Some people who have had to claim Universal Credit for reasons other than being found fit for work are finding that these components are not being transferred across to their new claim. This should again be challenged.
If you have been affected by any of these issues, please get in touch with our Money Advice Officer who can offer you support to deal with the problem.