Thousands of claimants of Universal Credit may not get “much-needed” cost-of-living payments due to flaws in the benefit’s eligibility rules, according to an SNP MP.
Because they are paid on a four-weekly rather than a monthly basis, low-income households who had anticipated receiving £650 from the government may be unable to get it.
This comes at a time when millions of low-income households throughout the United Kingdom were slated to receive payments beginning this week, the Glasgow Times reports.
Now, West Dunbartonshire SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has criticised the UK Government after a constituent was notified that they are ineligible for the payment while receiving Universal Credit.
Martin has now written to the Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Thérèse Coffey, expressing his concern that low-income employed individuals who often get Universal Credit are being unfairly refused cost-of-living payments.
The letter urges the UK Government to immediately reconsider the ‘grossly unjust’ qualifying requirements for Universal Credit, which the MP deems to apply to persons who are paid weekly, fortnightly, or four-weekly by their employer.
Universal Credit recipients who earned a “nil award” during the assessment period of April 26, 2022 to May 25, 2022 due to their salary payment schedules are ineligible for the first £326 instalment of the cost-of-living payment expected in July.
Around 37 percent of the UK’s 2.3 million working Universal Credit claimants are on non-monthly pay cycles, suggesting that up to 800,000 low-income persons may miss out.
Docherty-Hughes said: “It’s worrying that hundreds of thousands of low-income households who’d expected to receive this cost-of-living payment could miss out because of the Westminster Government’s flawed eligibility criteria.
“Families in West Dunbartonshire and across the country are struggling due to the UK’s cost-of-living crisis.
“They need support now and it’s devastating for my constituent and others who are ordinarily in receipt of Universal Credit to be unfairly excluded from this much-needed payment.”
He added: “In-work poverty is at its highest level for decades, and now the UK Government appears to be penalising people who are paid four-weekly rather than monthly.
“I’d urge the work and pensions secretary to act quickly to resolve this before thousands more families are forced needlessly into foodbanks.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The vast majority of existing recipients of Universal Credit will qualify for a cost-of-living payment but inevitably a small number will be ineligible on the qualification dates because of a change of income, earnings or other circumstance.
“Earnings patterns can vary substantially and it would be impossible to choose qualifying dates that work for every single person on Universal Credit, however autumn’s second qualifying date reduces the risk that those with non-monthly pay periods that were ineligible for the first payment, miss out altogether.
“For any individuals that are not eligible for this support, or for families that need additional support, the Government is providing an additional £500m to help vulnerable households and from October 2022, domestic electricity customers will receive a £400 discount on their bills.”