Home Kent News Almost half of Universal Credit claimants are seeing monthly benefits reduced

Almost half of Universal Credit claimants are seeing monthly benefits reduced

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Original article from Kent Live

Nearly half of all people claiming Universal Credit are missing out on their full monthly payments because they are in debt to the DWP.

45 per cent of all Universal Credit (UC) claims in February included a deduction, with some 2.2 million people missing out on their full entitlement.

Many were people who took out an advance from their own future benefits – to bridge the five-week wait for their first UC payment.

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Some 49 per cent of all deductions, worth £86million in February alone, were to pay back an advance., reports the Daily Mirror.

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The DWP claim there is nothing wrong with this, because advances mean people are being paid the same amount of benefits over a longer time.

But campaigners say the five-week wait must be scrapped, because many claimants have no choice but to borrow against their own future benefits.

Another 16% of deductions (£28m) were to pay back historic Tax Credit overpayments – which MPs and campaigners have long said should be written off.

Deductions can also be taken for benefit overpayments, court fines or other debts.

SNP MP Chris Stephens, who obtained the data in Parliament, said: “This deductions policy is cutting holes in the safety net and pulling hundreds of thousands of people's incomes below subsistence levels.

“The only way this policy can be scrapped is if the five-week wait to receive a first payment is bridged with grants, rather than loans, and the advice of former ministers is heeded by writing off historic tax credit debt.”

Andrew Forsey, Director of Feeding Britain, added: “A workable proposal for bridging the five-week wait has been presented with cross-party support to ministers.

“We believe its introduction is now long overdue.

“A failure to do so will, sadly, add to the need for food banks.”

The maximum deduction was reduced to 25% of benefits in April after complaints that families were struggling with the system.

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People also now have two years to pay back an advance, spreading their deductions more thinly over a longer time.

DWP minister Will Quince said: “We carefully balance our duty to the taxpayer to recover overpayments with our support for claimants.

“Safeguards are in place to ensure deductions are manageable.

“Customers can contact the Department if they are experiencing financial hardship in order to discuss a reduction in their rate of repayment, depending on financial circumstances.”

Original Article