More than 700 suspected errors in Universal Credit have been flagged in 18 months by a single town hall.
Labour-run Tower Hamlets started collecting the figures in April 2018 over concerns the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was not dealing robustly enough with problems.
Since then the deprived London borough’s officers have reported 728 incidents to the DWP, identifying £335,000 in alleged overpayments and £215,000 in underpayments and officials claimed some cases took months and numerous attempts to contact the DWP before they were solved.
The roll-out of Universal Credit should be stopped because it’s failing our most vulnerable residents and pushing them into hardship and it’s just not good enough that these errors continue and these ongoing mistakes that we’re seeing due to Universal Credit show that it’s not fit for purpose.
And it’s impossible for residents to budget when they’re being constantly underpaid or suddenly slapped with a bill for overpayments and cases reported by Tower Hamlets included a single parent in temporary accommodation, who waited eight months for payment because of a dispute between the council and the DWP over who was liable for paying them.
In another case, the DWP handed more than £5,000 to a claimant after it took three months to settle a dispute about their housing and child costs in Universal Credit and other cases led to people being paid too much in benefits.
Tower Hamlets officials alleged they told the DWP four times about someone who was being paid Universal Credit and housing benefit at the same time and by the time the problem was settled five months later, the claimant had been overpaid by £12,000.
In another case, officers identified what they alleged was a contrived tenancy between family members, but it took four notifications and £18,000 overpayments before the DWP stopped the right element of housing benefit.
Tower Hamlets stated it had identified 578 mistakes in cases in 2018/19 and despite the council going public about the first set this spring, 150 additional alleged mistakes were identified up to September, making 728 in total since the work started.
Not all cases are documented errors or received as mistakes by the DWP, as they were settled in different ways without a constant paper trail and a DWP spokesperson said that there were approximately 17,000 people getting Universal Credit in Tower Hamlets and more than 2 million across the United Kingdom in total and that they continue to give the best possible support to every single claimant and that if an error is made on someone’s benefit payment, their staff work to settle the issue as soon as possible, well, clearly not!
And how much longer do we have to drag this pustule along? It’s failing and everyone knows it, but the Tories refuse to accept it, even though it’s dicing with good people’s lives.
And it beggars belief why they don’t just scrap Universal Credit and go back to the old system because even that has to be more effective but it appears that admitting they’re wrong is something abhorrent to the prevailing government but maybe a few more Universal Credit induced suicides and impoverished families will be needed before they truly pull their heads out of the sand.