Universal Credit: Court of Appeal Judgment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:31 am on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 10:31 am, 25th June 2020

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

If a universal credit claimant is in work and is paid monthly, but those monthly payments do not align precisely with universal credit months—for example, if the claimant works for the NHS and gets paid on the last day of every month—that claimant will, from time to time, be paid twice in a single universal credit month. The universal credit computer system treats that claimant as if they had had a 100% pay rise; their benefit is cut, quite likely to zero; they have to reapply for the benefit; and their income is severely disrupted.

One of those involved in this case says that she was more financially stable out of work than in work. Another turned down an NHS job for which she was expertly qualified because she knew that universal credit would wreck her finances. Surely, nobody will dispute the view of the Appeal Court that the policy is “irrational”. I am grateful that the Minister has accepted the inevitable and is not going to be paying out for even more expensive lawyers to appeal the case. Surely the Department should have given up the fight last year, not waited until the Appeal Court reached this conclusion.

May I ask the Minister to tell us more about how many people are affected? I think the Court heard figures of around 80,000. It is a very significant problem for a lot of claimants. In his keeping the House updated—I am grateful to him for his assurance on that—will he tell us much more about the numbers who are affected, and will he fix the universal credit computer system as soon as possible?