MP seeks justice for Wirral residents who have lost out due to Universal Credit flaw

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25 Jun 2020
Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood has spoken out in Parliament about the government's failure to fix a flaw in Universal Credit (UC) that has left people struggling financially.

Speaking in an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, Margaret Greenwood said that a number of people living in Wirral West had been affected and she called on the minister to look into those cases as a matter of urgency and pay people the money that they should have received.

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of four single working mothers who, represented by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Leigh Day Solicitors, challenged the government over the rigidity of the monthly assessment period regime in UC.

Each claimant lost out on money through UC because they were paid a monthly salary towards the end of the month, and they also had a UC assessment period which started and ended close to the end of the month.

As is the case for many employees, the claimants’ actual pay dates were occasionally brought forward to take account of weekends and bank holidays, while the start/end dates of their UC assessment periods remained fixed.

The result of the clash between their monthly paydays and the start/end of their assessment periods was that the claimants were sometimes paid twice in one assessment period, meaning that whenever this issue arose, they were treated as having earned twice their usual salary in one assessment period and so received a significantly reduced UC award.

The Court of Appeal unanimously found in favour of the claimants on the grounds that the variations in their UC awards and the additional loss of the benefit of the UC work allowance, purely as a result of being paid their salaries on a day close to the start/end of their assessment period, were perverse and irrational.

In its judgement, the court noted:

“The threshold for establishing irrationality is very high, but it is not insuperable. This case is…one of the rare instances where the (government’s) refusal to put in place a solution to this very specific problem is so irrational that I have concluded that the threshold is met because no reasonable (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) would have struck the balance in that way.” 

Speaking after the Urgent Question in Parliament, Margaret Greenwood said:

“I pay tribute to the four women who took the government to court over this injustice and to CPAG and Leigh Day Solicitors for the fantastic work that they have done campaigning on this issue.

“Working people on low incomes have missed out on hundreds of pounds that they should have received because the government has failed to fix this fundamental flaw.

“I have written to the government on numerous occasions about this issue, and I have repeatedly raised it in the House of Commons too.

“At last, after four single mothers have won their legal case against the government, the minister has agreed to meet with me to look into these cases here in Wirral West.

“Nobody should have to take the government to court over its failure to provide social security.

“I shall be pursuing this with the minister and urging him to ensure that those who have missed out financially are paid the money they should have received.”