A woman has been given the go-ahead to take the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court over Universal Credit (UC) rules.
Nichola Salvato was forced into debt while claiming UC because she had to pay for childcare costs up front.
The rules pushed her to borrow from pay day lenders, and eventually to cut her working hours.
Nichola argues that these rules disproportionately affect single parents, most of whom are women, and so are discriminatory.
She has now won permission to bring a judicial review case over the rules at the High Court.
Nichola said it was “really good news” to find out that the challenge would go ahead. “There are 500,000 families that will be claiming their childcare costs through the Universal Credit route,” she told Socialist Worker.
“That is a really enormous part of the population. Nearly everybody except for the very richest claim some kind of government help with childcare costs.
“So it seems ridiculously unfair that those who are the worst off have to claim them in arrears.”
Nichola said having to pay childcare costs upfront and then claim them back from the DWP “made a nonsense of the whole notion that Universal Credit would make work pay”.
“It means that people are cutting back hours, leaving jobs or turning down jobs,” she explained. “It’s not panning out as a policy.”
The news comes in the same week that one UC claimant said he can’t always afford food.
Mark Chambers can’t work due to a life-threatening illness. “I often go to the reduced aisles in the supermarkets,” he said.
Mark often has to use food banks, and some days he doesn’t eat. He is sometimes left with just £10 a week for food. “You aren’t really living—you’re just surviving,” he said. “The system needs to change.”
UC is a mechanism for punishing ordinary people and driving the most vulnerable into desperation. It should be scrapped immediately.
Nichola said others can get involved in campaigning for change. “We have a campaign called Mums on a Mission, which is being facilitated by Save the Children,” she said.
“So people could get in touch with Save the Children to get involved. We will also be putting together case studies for the court challenge, which can be anonymous.”