On Friday 11th January the news broke that a group of four working single mothers have won their High Court battle over a flaw in the Government’s Universal Credit System. Helen Goodman MP reacts to the ruling:
Two High Court judges ruled on Friday that the Department for Work and Pensions had been wrongly interpreting Universal Credit regulations, after hearing the argument that a “fundamental problem” in the system caused working people to struggle financially. The case was brought to court by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
This High Court ruling is great news, and has helped to expose a big problem with Universal Credit which negatively affects thousands of hard-working people across the country. The issue in this case was that these women were paid by their employers on a date that clashed with their Universal Credit assessment period, making it look as though they’d been paid twice as much in a month. This drastically reduced their Universal Credit payment for the following month.
This isn’t a one-off problem. I’ve written to the DWP multiple times and questioned Ministers about it in Parliament. Quite a few people come to my office with this issue. In some cases, people were paid early because of a bank holiday, or they get paid every four weeks instead of each calendar month and this disrupts their Universal Credit.
People are losing out on what they are entitled to and being forced into debt because of a badly designed system.
This ruling came on the same day that Amber Rudd, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, unveiled changes to Universal Credit. This included a partial U-turn on the two-child benefits cap, and changes to household payments which would see funds paid directly to the main carer in a family.
The two-child benefit cap was controversial at the time the legislation was passed in 2015, and I led a rebellion of MPs against the proposals.
The changes announced on Friday are a start, however, more changes will be needed to fix Universal Credit. For example, we need to see an end to the waiting period, we need to fix admin systems that mean people are being fined for claiming free prescriptions, and we need to re-establish the loans system that this government ended for claimants.
On Monday afternoon, I asked in Parliament whether the DWP would rule out an appeal against the High Court Ruling. They have yet to make a full response to the judgement. I hope they take this ruling seriously.