Advice NI highlights “fundamental flaw” in Universal Credit
Advice NI is aware of some claimants who are working, holding down a job, trying to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads, but they are being financially punished by the Universal Credit system.
The rigidity of the Universal Credit assessment period is such that, depending on the date that Universal Credit is claimed, some people are treated as receiving two monthly wages in one assessment period, resulting in a dramatically reduced or even nil Universal Credit award.
Advice NI states that this is a fundamental flaw which will inflict further damage in terms of public confidence in the Universal Credit system.
Bob Stronge, Advice NI Chief Executive said:
“Government says that it’s all about work, making work pay and that Universal Credit will help make sure people are better off in work . However we are highlighting a fundamental flaw which will undermine public confidence in Universal Credit and calls into question whether the rollout across Northern Ireland should continue given that the system appears not to be entirely fit for purpose.
For example if someone is paid on the last Friday of each month then they will have been paid on Friday 30th March and then Friday 27th April.
If they claim Universal Credit on 29th March, their monthly assessment period runs from 29th March to 28th April. The two monthly wage packets will fall into one Universal Credit assessment period resulting in a dramatically reduced or even nil Universal Credit award. Equally many people get paid early when there is a bank holiday at the end of a month, again this could mean that two monthly wage packets will fall into one Universal Credit assessment period.
Whilst there may be months with no wage packet and other months with one wage packet which will lead to an increased Universal Credit award, Advice NI believe this issue will undoubtedly lead to claimants having a lack of certainty about finances and indeed may cause hardship in those months where the Universal Credit award is dramatically reduced or even nil.”
Advice NI believe that it is irrational that income for a period other than the monthly Universal Credit assessment period is taken into account and this flaw actually undermines the purpose of Universal Credit.
Given this fundamental flaw, Advice NI is calling on all our MLAs and MPs to make the case for this situation to be rectified as a matter of urgency.
If you are worried about Universal Credit or any other aspect of welfare reform, please contact the independent welfare changes Helpline on Freephone 0808 802 0020.