Rudd ‘must act on Universal Credit’
AMBER Rudd has been urged to take “immediate steps” over the way the controversial Universal Credit is calculated following a High Court victory for four working single mothers.
A lawyer representing one of the successful women said the Work and Pensions Secretary should now “ensure that no other claimants are adversely affected”.
Tessa Gregory, of law firm Leigh Day, who represented part-time dinner lady and mother-of-one Danielle Johnson, of Keighley, West Yorkshire, said the minister should also “ensure all those who have suffered because of this unlawful conduct are swiftly and fairly compensated”.
Her comments came after two judges in London announced yesterday that Ms Johnson and three other single mothers – who say they are struggling financially because of the way the welfare system operates – had succeeded in their judicial review action against the Work and Pensions Secretary.
The women argued that a “fundamental problem” with the scheme means that their monthly payments vary “enormously” and they end up out of pocket.
They challenged the method used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when calculating the amount payable under the Universal Credit Regulations 2013.
Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Lewis gave their ruling following a hearing in November when they were told the women are struggling to manage their household budgets, and some have fallen into debt or had to rely on food banks.
Lawyers for Ms Johnson, Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart said the problem is likely to affect “tens of thousands of people” claiming Universal Credit, which was introduced to replace meanstested benefits including income support.
They said the problem highlighted by the case arises when claimants are paid by employers on a date which “clashes” with their assessment period for Universal Credit.
For example, if a claimant is paid early because of a weekend or bank holiday, the system counts them as having been paid twice in one month and they receive a “vastly reduced” Universal Credit payment.
The judges concluded that the “Secretary of State had wrongly interpreted the relevant regulations” and reached “flawed” decisions in the women’s cases.
Claimants with childcare responsibilities or limited capacity for work are allowed to retain a certain amount of their earned income for each monthly assessment period, without that affecting the amount of Universal Credit to be received.
Solicitor Carla Clarke, of the Child Poverty Action Group, which also brought the case on behalf of the lone mothers, said: “Today’s result should mean that in future no-one will lose out on their Universal Credit awards or face the hardship that my clients have faced simply because of when their payday happens to fall.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “We are carefully considering the court’s judgment.”
Amber Rudd gives a speech at Kennington Jobcentre, London