The Downside of Claiming Universal Credit

 We received this from someone who would prefer to remain anonymous, outlining some of the issues they have faced with making a claim for Universal Credit. We would be interested to hear more from anyone about their own experiences, good or bad. 

 

Image from mprietou at Pixabay

Newly separated and having given up work due to ill health at the ripe old age of 58, I began a new journey, into the world of  universal credit, and discovered a whole new set of problems.

First I had to prove who I was. Naively I thought that as I had been both an employer and a manager in my working life I wouldn’t have any problems. My first appointment took the form of a phone call that lasted an hour. I thought that I was prepared but questions ranged from those that I anticipated to what was my postcode on a house I owned the last time I claimed benefit over 20 years ago. By the end of this marathon event I was beginning to wonder if I was who I thought I was. I was told the process after this could take five weeks.

While waiting five weeks I was informed that my grandson, for whom I am guardian and who lives with me, wasn’t considered a dependent so I couldn’t claim for them. I was told to remove them from my online claim.  An email to a family rights group that I found online gave me the information I needed to argue my case and a week later I could finally include them in my claim.

Five weeks came and went and nothing happened. My online view of universal credit informed me I would be told how much I would get on the 28th of the month. On the 1st of the month it was still saying the same.

I visited the doctor and got a sick note as my health was getting worse, and stress wasn’t helping, and was then delighted to finally get a  notification from universal credit. Was I getting money?

Apparently not. I had been mistakenly paid by my previous employer and, although I had sent the pay back the same day and could show proof  in the form of a receipt and bank statement, they informed me that they would raise an earnings dispute.

Finally, seven weeks after claiming, I received only £288. The transaction showed up on my online payments as being paid two weeks prior which left me very confused. Still signed off sick, it was two months after originally claiming before I actually received any benefit.

A capability to work interview by phone determined I was fit to work, despite sick notes and obvious deteriorations in my health that had led to my giving up work in the first place. I was told not to send in any more sick notes.

Five and a half months after I made my first claim I was informed that I would be paid for the first month properly as they finally accepted I did send the wage I was not entitled to back to my previous employer. The notes actually say that my benefit was paid five months prior. Really? I can’t imagine getting away with that as an employer.

I had an appointment with the jobcentre in the March and phoned to say that my grandson had covid. They replied: “Have you been asked to isolate?” I hadn’t, as I knew we would both stay home, so we both had to go to the jobcentre. I had to leave him in the car while I attended my interview, very much feeling like a second-class citizen.

I was awarded PIP with no problems and had a small pension when I was 60 from my previous employer.  I informed universal credit and was paid the full amount for the next three months. When I stated that I was worried that this was an error – I understood that I would have to pay it back as, with a pension, you lose a pound for every pound you get – they told me there was no problem and I didn’t need to be worried.

One month later a nasty letter from DWP debt agency arrived telling me I was in debt. In tears as I had tried several times to prevent this, I protested that I had informed them every month exactly how much I had been getting, so why were they making me feel bad now?

I wanted to leave my past behind so I reverted to my maiden name and informed the benefits agency, following online instructions, that this had been completed by deed poll. The next month I received no money and no explanation except a message telling me I would hear in two days how much I would get. Finally after a further delay I was told I wouldn’t get money till I showed the deed poll to the jobcentre, so waited three days for an appointment and duly did as I was asked. My bank account was the same, so why stop my benefit?

The whole system has managed to break me and make me feel inferior. A lesser person might have given up instead of fighting. This has exhausted me every step of the way and is ongoing. I cant help thinking that as an employer I would have been in trouble for treating people how I have been treated.

If you would like to share your own experience of trying to claim benefits, please email Kitty on speaktofish@gmail.com

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for pembrokeshire.online, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says "Pembrokeshire.online has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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