Four women workers won a high court challenge to the Tories’ Universal Credit (UC) scheme on Friday. Two judges in London said the women, all single mothers, had succeeded in a judicial review against work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.
The women are Danielle Johnson, Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart.
They said a “fundamental problem” with UC meant their monthly payments varied “enormously” and they had ended up worse off. They challenged the method used by the Department for Work and Pensions for calculating payments.
Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Lewis had heard that UC had pushed some of the women into debt and that others were forced to rely on food banks. They said the “secretary of state had wrongly interpreted” some regulations.
Their lawyers said tens of thousands of other UC claimants would likely face similar problems.
UC payments are affected by other income earned by claimants. If a claimant is paid early due to a weekend or bank holiday, they could be treated as having been paid twice in one month.
The women said this would lead to them being given a “vastly reduced” UC payment.
Rudd and the Tories are under pressure to retreat on their welfare reforms.
The Tories have limited child benefit payments to two children. Anyone with a third child born after April 2017 couldn’t claim child benefit for the child.
The Tories planned to extend this cap to the third children of UC claimants regardless of when they were born. But Rudd last week said the plan would not be extended because it is “not right”.
It’s good that the Tories are in trouble over UC. But their meagre changes are nowhere near what is needed. There shouldn’t be any caps on child benefit payments. And for all the delays and changes, the Tories want to drive through UC.
So Rudd insisted last week that UC is “not cruel”. The facts say otherwise.
One woman in Plymouth suffered a miscarriage after UC left her homeless and sleeping rough in the middle of winter.
Debbie Ballard and her partner Ryan Gifford were switched over to UC without being informed. It meant they missed a rent payment and were made homeless.
“Losing my baby makes me feel like shit,” said Debbie. “I feel useless and worthless. I was about six weeks pregnant when we were street homeless in December. We were sleeping in a car park on the harbour. It was so cold at night.
“I had a miscarriage because of all the stress.”
Ryan said, “I want Universal Credit to stop. I think that now Universal Credit is coming in properly it’s going to get a lost worse. It’s going to be a nightmare.”