Jonathan Reynolds has said that Universal Credit claimants face a “rigid, unbending, uncaring response” and described an “overwhelming need to recognise the lived experiences” of people in receipt of the benefit.
Labour tabled an urgent question to the Work and Pensions Secretary today, asking the government to make a statement on a recent court ruling that declared the rules around Universal Credit assessment periods to be unlawful.
Reynolds asked the minister: “What on earth was the government doing, fighting this case for so many years, only to be told by the Court of Appeal something which seems to most people a matter of basic common sense?
“If Universal Credit cannot cope with the date people are paid and the impact of bank holidays and weekends on that payment date, then the solution should always have been to change how the system works.”
The benefit does not adjust for the fact that in some months, wages will be paid into a claimant’s account earlier than normal due to weekends or bank holidays – instead judging this as them earning twice as much in that month.
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “This issue goes to the heart of problems with Universal Credit, which is that time and time again we are told by ministers that Universal Credit is more flexible, is more agile, that it can be adapted to meet new requirements and respond to problems that are identified.”
He added: “When it comes to making seemingly simple changes such as these, claimants are faced with a rigid, unbending, uncaring response. The government always seems unwilling to listen to the experiences of the people who actually use the system.”
The case was initially brought by four single mums last year, and the court found in their favour – however, the government decided to appeal the decision. Lady Justice Rose agreed with the original ruling.
She said that the situation faced by the women and others in their situation was “perverse”. It is estimated that around 85,000 claimants are affected by the regulations relating to payment periods.