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In an answer to a written question, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed that its most recent figures show 53% of Universal Credit claimants had money deducted from their benefit payment. Deductions have long been raised as pushing people into poverty but as of yet, the DWP have no heeded this warning.
Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field MP submitted a question to the DWP on February 7th asking;
“To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of universal credit claims had a deduction applied in the most recent month for which data is available.”
A response came over a month later on March 20th with Employment Minister Alok Sharma MP giving the answer. The detailed response outlines the sheer number of claimants having money taken from their benefit payment.
Sharma opens with the mandatory government statement;
The Government recognises the importance of safeguarding the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. Under Universal Credit there is a coordinated approach to deductions from benefit, which simplifies the current complex arrangements.
The aim of the deductions policy in Universal Credit is to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their gas, electricity and water cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services.
The Minister then goes on to say how increased awareness of advances has led to 60% of Universal Credit claimants taking one. As I have said before, advances do not solve the problem, rather they exacerbate them by forcing claimants to live on less for months at a time.
Then came the statistics. Sharma revealed that the most recent figures available to him from October 2018 show that; “53% (532,000 claims) had a deduction to their standard allowance.”
The breakdown was as follows;
“Of these 532,000 claims with a deduction:
a) 53% (284,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance (28% of all eligible claims).
b) 21% (113,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance (11% of all eligible claims).
c) 24% (129,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance (13% of all eligible claims).
d) 1% (6,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance (0.6% of all eligible claims).”
The figures are a sobering reminder of what Universal Credit claimants are subject to. However, what this doesn’t address is the age groups of the claimants. This is vitally important as those under 25 receive much less than their counterparts of the age of 25.
Since 2015, the rates received by claimants have been frozen. They are as follows;
- Single claimant aged under 25: £251.77 per month
- Single claimant aged 25 or over: £317.82 per month
- Joint claimants both aged under 25: £395.20 per month
- Joint claimants either aged 25 or over: £498.89 per month
Under 25s Suffer Most
If a claimant under 25 receiving their full allowance of £251.77 had 20% deducted they would be left with £201.42. If they were part of the 13% who had up to 40% taken, they could face being left with a measly £151.07 to live on for an entire month.
I doesn’t bear thinking if any of them were some of the 6000 claimants having OVER 40% of their money taken.
While some aged under 25 may face lower costs if they live at home, I am not aware of some special scheme that helps them live for less if they don’t.
They pay the same taxes, buy the same food and are charged the same in rent. It’s high time that benefits are equalised for all age groups.
DWP Pushing People into Debt
The latest data is just more evidence that the DWP are pushing people into debt. While they have lowered the maximum amount that can be taken to 30%, this does not go far enough.
I myself was subject to deductions. It is after all the reason I am here writing for you. When I was put onto Universal Credit I was being left with £190 month to buy all my food and pay my bills. After bills this was £10.50 for a fortnights worth of food.
By pushing claimants to take a 100% advance all the DWP are doing is putting people into debt from day one. What’s more, if they were a bank they’d be fined for irresponsible lending practices. But the Financial Conduct Authority have advised that the government are exempt from any FCO regulations on lending.
Not surprising really. Everything related to Universal Credit breaks what would be classed as normal. Why would the DWP change things now?
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