Universal Credit standard shenanigans

After getting a letter from ESA last week, this week I logged on to my UC journal and found that I had – at last – got an award breakdown. I’m on the basic rate, less than £75/week, and I had over £100 taken off the month’s payment because of my earnings.

As an added complication, my housing association seems to change its service charge on a frequent basis – it went up between when I first moved in and asked them to write a letter to pass on to UC with my rent and service charge, and the actual rent and service charge that I paid for this month. Universal Credit tell me it would be a major hassle if my HA were to change the service charge each month, because UC would then have to verify (i.e., see a letter written to me – possibly in person by me at the jobcentre) my service charge every month. I recall now that when I got sent copies of the invoice for the quarterly service charge of the previous occupant, it changed each quarter. It’s difficult to believe that the HA genuinely do this to every tenant – it would be a nightmare for the tenants, because they would never be able to get the right housing benefit. I’m waiting for a reply from the HA to clarify the situation.

Universal Credit apparently will, at some point, get told by ESA that I was on ESA and I will be put in the equivalent UC group and the additional money back-paid. This is not just the difference between basic rate UC and the ESA Support Group equivalent, but also because on the basic rate of UC I get money deducted from my earnings that wouldn’t have been deducted if they had put me straight onto the correct award rate.

I’m fortunate in that, whilst I work very few hours, I’m on a good wage. Consequently, after having money taken from my UC because of my earnings, I still feel that I got an okay hourly rate for the work that I did, at a little less than the current minimum wage. This is given that I work from home, so no travel costs, and that I enjoy my work, so I gain in terms of wellbeing even as I can quickly end up losing physically. So I don’t resent the money loss as an ‘excessive tax’. Given the nature of the work, I’m content with the take-home pay. It would be very difficult to work part-time in one of the toxic jobs, earning in effect only one-third of the minimum wage. The emotional strain of going into a pressured, unpleasant workplace for very little money would be awful.

I’m even more fortunate in that I still have some savings in the bank which can cushion me against the low Universal Credit payment until ESA gets it act together. Really, if ESA are supposed to notify UC so that I get put in the right group, then I shouldn’t be put on UC at all until ESA have notified them. I should stay on ESA until ESA and UC between them are ready for me to move over. Instead, assuming that at some point the notification arrives, the DWP is going to have to backpay what I would have got had they been organised in the first place.

I’m still appealing a low PIP award as well. If I’m fortunate, at some point I’ll get a load of PIP backpay too. In the meantime, I can’t purchase the assistance at home or the private treatment options that help me to manage my condition.

#benefits #welfarereform #benefitcuts #UniversalCredit #employmentandsupportallowance #ESA

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