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

freud

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 £28.12pw for this whole period.
  • In my home town, the cheapest rent (shared accommodation) I could find was £100pw, while the LHA is £82.46, leaving a shortfall of £17.54pw
  • Council Tax is still payable each week @ £3.95pw
  • Utilities/Water rates are between £6 – £8pw
  • Total of priority outgoings £27.49pw

This leaves claimants with 63pence per week to live on for this period nearly seven weeks

  • 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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