Universal credit: Single mums win High Court battle

Mother strolling with newborn (posed by models)

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The mothers argued there was a fundamental problem with the system (picture illustrated by models)

Four working single mothers have won a High Court challenge over the government’s universal credit scheme.

The women say they are struggling financially because of variation in their monthly payments.

They argued a “fundamental problem” with the scheme meant their monthly payments varied “enormously”, leaving them up out of pocket.

Lawyers for the women said the problem was likely to affect “tens of thousands of people” claiming the benefit.

On Friday it was announced that Danielle Johnson, Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart had succeeded in a judicial review action against the government.

The mothers challenged the method used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when calculating the payments they were due.

Universal credit is a means-tested benefit, rolling six separate benefits into one payment.

It has proved controversial almost from its inception, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends, administrative problems and delays to the scheme’s roll-out.

On Friday, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd announced another U-turn over the flagship policy, ditching plans to extend a benefits cap on families of more than two children.

When calculating universal credit payments, the DWP sets assessment periods for each person to look at how much they earn – from the 1st of the month to the end of the month, for example.

But lawyers for the mothers said a problem arises when claimants are paid by employers on a date which “clashes” with their assessment period.

For example, they pointed out that if a claimant is paid early because of a weekend or bank holiday, the system counts them as having been paid twice in one month and they receive a “vastly reduced” universal credit payment.

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