Universal Credit: What the public doesn’t know

20th August 2018

This is a report co-written by myself and Gail Ward and submitted to the Social Security Advisory Committee’s call for evidence regarding Universal Credit.

We have taken a broad brush approach and have not made recommendations.



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A guide to completing additional questions for Personal Independence Payment

Follow this link for a very comprehensive PIP guide  which focuses on examples that you could for the additional information boxes.

Often people with disabilities or long term illness get so use to living with pain and discomfort that they do not realise how much their disability affects they everyday life.

Please share as widely as possible



 As this guide is a PDF, below are the writable additional information sheets from the Appendix for you to copy and paste:


National Insurance Number………………………..

Q2 About your health condition and disabilities




 Q3 Preparing Food



Q3 Additional Information Preparing Food


 Q4 Eating and Drinking




Q4 Additional Information Eating and Drinking


Q5 Managing Treatments



Q5 Additional Information Managing Treatments


Q6 Bathing and Washing



Q6 Additional Information Bathing and Washing


Q7 Managing Toilet Needs



Q7 Additional Information Managing Toilet Needs


 Q8 Dressing and Undressing



Q8 Additional Information Dressing and Undressing


 Q9 Communicating



Q9 Additional Information


Q10 Reading



Q10 Additional Information


 Q11 Mixing with other People



Q11 Additional Information


Q12 Making decisions about Money



Q12 Additional Information


Q13 Going Out



Q13 Additional Information Going Out


Q14 Moving around

Q14 a



Q14 Additional Information


 Q15 Further Additional Information





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DWP Ordered To Apologise To Sister Of Tim Salter

Same Difference

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The DWP has been ordered to apologise to the sister of a vulnerable claimant who committed suicide after his benefits were cut, according to the Guardian. The case bears a striking resemblance to others in which the DWP have failed to follow their own guidelines and also ignored coroner’s prevention of future death reports.

Physiotherapist assessment for mental health
When Linda Cooksey found the body of her brother Tim Salter in his home in September 2013, there was no food in the house, no money in his bank account and a letter from his housing association threatening him with eviction.

Salter had been left partially sighted following a previous suicide attempt and had mental health conditions including agoraphobia. In spite of this, and references to suicide in his claim for ESA, he was found fit for work and had his benefits drastically…

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My challenge to Lord Freud, Minister of State for Welfare Reform: Can you live on 63pence per week for nearly seven weeks?


If the answer to that question is No, then why are you imposing a policy on Universal Credit claimants that achieves just this?

For those of you who have not yet heard of Universal Credit (UC) and there are thousands of you out there that have no idea of the future, especially those who are currently claiming Tax Credits (TC)

Universal Credit is the Government’s New Flagship Benefit that, for the first time in Social Security history, brings part-time workers, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed under one set of rules.

I recently wrote to you voicing my concerns regarding the policy of Repayable Hardship Payment Loans, as these loans must be repaid immediately meaning that the financial penalty of a 4 week sanction is effectively extended to a period 7 weeks.

 CPAG have stated that a 13 week sanction effectively means a financial sanction for 33weeks and there are more examples here in section 5 of the report (link below).

 I have calculated that a the person with repayable hardship repayments of £2000 noted in this report – section 5, will take 70 weeks to repay

You can read more here: http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/WP-UC-Inquiry-WelCond.pdf.

More to the point you stated that, “The Universal Credit Hardship provisions aim to ensure there is financial protection for those who need it to meet their immediate, basic and essential needs because their payment is reduced by sanction….”

 I would challenge this statement and have set out my arguments and further calculations below:

Repayable Hardship Payment Loans (RHPL)

Single Non Disabled Person receiving £73.10pw

  • Every claimant must comply with conditionality for 7days before being able to claim (RHPL), which includes the sick, disabled and vulnerable, so they receive nothing for the first week .
  • A 4 week sanction is extended financially to 6 1/2weeks as RHPL are immediately repayable at 40%
  • This averages out to £31.33pw for this whole period.
  • In my home town, the cheapest rent (shared accommodation) I could find was £100pw, while the LHA is £82.25, leaving a shortfall of £17.75pw
  • Council Tax is still payable each week @ £3.95pw
  • Water rates are between £9pw
  • Total of priority outgoings £30.70pw

This leaves claimants with 63pence per week to live on for this period nearly seven weeks without gas and electriticy!!

  • During this period if Council Tax is not paid and court action is taken, another debt will be incurred of £100 – £120 on top of accrued arrears.
  • Many court orders for CT are passed to Bailiffs for non payment for which there is yet another financial cost.
  • As housing costs are now included in the one UC payment, here is a great chance that rent arrears will accumulate, with eviction being the end result
  • Another Priority debt is the Television License fee of £5.60pw, without which claimants are liable to a criminal record and fine
  • I have calculated that clearing debt built up due to arrears could take at least another 8 – 10 weeks, meaning that a four week sanction can have an adverse financial impact for up to six month at the very least.

Lord Freud, it is plain to see that “basic and essential needs” are not being met, far from it claimants are falling into debt, going without food, heating, electricity and losing their accommodation all over the country

I would also like to say to you, that people who commit heinous crimes have their” basic and essential needs” covered. At a minimum they are fed and housed but claimants who are sanctioned are not afforded these basic needs.

Sanctions, before the introduction of repayment hardship payments have already caused many deaths, so I would urge you to act now, so that we do not need to mourn the first Universal Credit death due to this harsh and unnecessary policy.








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This week at Dundee buroo

scottish unemployed workers' network


Whilst it was quite busy ootside Dundee buroo earlier this week, it was much quieter today, which suggests that us being there coincided with the Connect team being on duty inside the building – as regular readers will be aware, Dundee buroo is one of the only jobcentres anywhere, that we are aware of, where welfare rights officers dispense advice to jobcentre ‘clients’, or, as everyone else would call them, unemployed people.

We have noticed increasing numbers of cases of people being bumped from ESA and onto JSA, and this week was no exception. We met Emily, a nineteen-year-old woman with ADHD, and suffering from extreme anxiety, who had recently failed her Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and had also been refused PIP when she failed to turn up to her PIP medical assessment. Emily could not tell us precisely when she had received her award letter telling her that she…

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August 18, 2016 · 11:35 pm

Raise your banners

We are proud to be included in this blog

Shoddy exhibition

Political banners, with their traditions reaching back through the labour movement, have something in common with the Shoddy exhibition. Being fabric-based is the obvious connection, with a skillful use of embroidery, appliqué and painting to convey a strong message. Banners often carry a message of protest or resistance, but are as often about identity, pride, unity and justice.

DAN banner on the right, the only photo I can find of it. Photo: Tony Baldwinson

We are familiar with trade union banners, the banners of the women’s suffrage movement and, of course, banners that are carried on demonstrations –  sometimes quickly and roughly made, but with something to say and aiming to grab your attention.

The disabled people’s movement has created some wonderful, attention-grabbing banners over the years, including the legendary banner that accompanied DAN, the disabled people’s direct action network, on actions during the 1990s. The slogan “to boldly go…

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Universal Credit: Sanctions and The Horror of Repayable Hardship Payments



It took me a while to get my head around the new policy of Repayable Hardship Payments and how it extends  a four week sanction to seven weeks due to these payments being repayable!

Under the current JSA sanction policy Hardship payments do not have to be repaid, so as soon as the sanction period ends claimants go back to receiving their full benefit.

Under Universal Credit hardship payments MUST BE REPAID once the sanction period has been completed. In effect, the sanction period is extended until the hardship loan has been repaid.

I have calculated the figures below as weekly amounts, as it is easier to explain, although Universal Credit is paid monthly.

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid at a rate of £73.10 for adults over 25.
  • Hardship Payments are paid @ 60% or £43.86
  • Hardship Repayments are immediately repaid at a rate of 40% of “loan” or £35.08pw
  • Hardship can be claimed on the 15th day of a sanction if the claimant is not in a vulnerable group
  • The most common benefit sanction is 4 weeks


Number of Sanction weeks Hardship payment per week (£) Hardship debt accrued each week (£)
1 NIL Income 0
2 NIL Income 0
Hardship Payments can be awarded from week 3 @60% of JSA award
3 43.86 43.86
4 43.86 87.72


  • At the end of a 4 week sanction the Repayable Hardship Payment debt is £87.72
  • As stated above Hardship Repayments are repaid at a rate of 40% or £35.08 pw.


Number sanction weeks Jobseeker’s Allowance minus hardship repayment (£) Repayment Hardship at £35.08 each week Outstanding debt
5 38.02 £35.08 52.64
6 38.02 £35.08 17.56
7 55.54 £17.56 0


The debt of £87.72 takes an extra three weeks to repay

so effectively the sanction has been




The longer the sanction the longer it takes to repay the debt!


Case study: One in-work UC claimant reported being sanctioned for long periods after missing multiple Jobcentre Plus appointments because of unpredictable working hours and variable care demands…

I’m on my court order for the eviction plus because of my arrears… I kept thinking, ‘Why is this happening? Why is this?’… I really was struggling. I fell behind on a lot especially because with the sanctions and then when I got poorly and I wouldn’t work and, because of the sanctions, I still wasn’t getting my main allowance. I was still getting only hardship of £100 odd and I still had to pay the £100, so I was very, very struggling with that… I just asked them, ‘Can you please explain what my money is because I really don’t know? I’ve never had a proper payment and just explain like am I still sanctioned?’ They said, ‘No, your sanctions have now come up’ but now every month I’ve had the hardship, I now have to pay all them back. So, I think it was like £2000 something that they’d actually given me over the year in hardship payments, so I’m still currently paying them off now… You’re in a rut like I’ve been with the bailiffs… I’ve never really been in a debt like that and for it to still carry on now to this day escalating, it’s not nice for people. It doesn’t give you much confidence. It doesn’t really make you want to go into work all happy and carrying on, do you know? It knocks you down and down and it wears you out.

 Read more at Welfare Conditionality


It will take 70 weeks to pay back this loan back!


How Repayable Hardship Payments effect The Under 25’s

 “If, for example, an individual was in receipt of universal credit at a rate of £249.48 per month (the standard allowance of under 25s), she might receive hardship payments of approximately £149.57 per month during the 13 week sanction period. If s/he then had to repay this at a rate of 40% of the standard allowance rate per month, the period during which her income was reduced by 40% would thus be extended from 13 weeks (the sanction period) to 32 weeks (the sanction period plus the period during which the hardship payment”

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) briefing in advance of the second reading of the Benefit Sanctions Regime (Entitlement to Automatic Hardship Payments) Bill 2015-16


I do not think that the consequences of this policy was fully understood when this legislation was passed into law but is an unforeseen consequence, never the less this situation needs to be remedied immediately:

I will be asking my MP to write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Stephen Crabb MP to ask him to halt the trial of Repayable Hardship Payments that is taking place in Scotland immediately, and to ask him to look at the unintended consequence of this policy and change legislation as necessary.

If you feel as strongly as I do please email and or tweet Your MP


and Stephen Crabb:

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Tel:      020 7219 6518

Email: stephen.crabb.mp@parliament.uk                 Twitter: @scrabbmp




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