Disability researcher Samuel Miller has appealed for anyone affected by the issues outlined in this story to contact him, with a view to launching a lawsuit against the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mr Miller writes: “If the Citizens Advice study is factual, I would be prepared to help initiate a lawsuit against the DWP.
“I previously consulted with Leigh Day, a London law firm, on a benefit sanctions case. Legal fees for an initial consultation with a human rights law firm can be raised via crowdfunding sites.”
His e-mail address is: [email protected]
Design flaws in the government’s troubled universal credit system are leaving vulnerable claimants hundreds of pounds in debt and dependent on food banks, according to a study of how the system is working in practice.
The main cause of difficulty is a built-in delay to universal credit which requires claimants to wait at least 42 days before receiving a benefit payment. This has left some claimants penniless, stressed, forced to borrow cash to pay rent or utility bills and struggling to buy food.
The system, which is being being slowly rolled out across the UK and is years behind its original schedule, is also dogged by computer processing errors, poor communications with claimants, and delays in fixing simple administrative problems, says the study by a group of Citizens Advice offices.
It says that although universal credit assumes claimants are paid monthly in arrears – and therefore if they lose their job they can manage until their first benefit payment – half of low paid workers are paid weekly, meaning they must last for six weeks on a single week’s money.
More than 60% of the study’s respondents reported that they had found it “very difficult” to pay rent, utilities and food bills during the 42-day period. A third had waited even longer for their claim to be processed, with one in 10 waiting at least 63 days.
The study says these problems undermine the aims of universal credit because “claimants are forced into focusing on getting their benefit income into payment, finding food for their families and negotiating late payments of bills with their landlords and others instead of looking for work”.
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