SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has urged the Minister for Communities to address the Universal Credit discrepancy which penalises claimants who receive multiple payments within one assessment period.
In June, following the successful Johnson & Others High Court Challenge, the stringent rule was deemed ‘irrational and unlawful.’
Said the Foyle MLA: “Firstly, it is disgraceful that it took a High Court appeal by four single mothers in England to hold the Westminster government to account for this ‘irrational and unlawful’ Universal Credit rule.
“Despite the ruling just being made in June of this year, this major glitch has been apparent for quite some time and one which I had raised back in 2018.
“The rule which penalises claimants who receive multiple payments within one assessment period has already left thousands out of pocket.
“Welfare Reform opened the floodgate for a litany of issues; further exacerbated by three years without an Assembly in place to properly mitigate against these changes.
“To add insult to injury, the economic impact of the pandemic will see more and more people seeking benefit support.
“My concern is with the likelihood of increased redundancies, and subsequent payments, this illogical rule could potentially be to the detriment of hundreds of already struggling claimants.
“Furthermore with many employers’ early payment policy in December mere months down the line, other claimants could find themselves above the threshold for their assessment period resulting in a ‘zero award.’”
He continued: “So while it’s all well and good that the Minister acknowledges this practice is ‘fundamentally incorrect’ and is working to resolve it, a protective mechanism should have been in place long ago.
“Anyone affected can request a mandatory reconsideration to appeal this decision.
“However, I find it utterly detestable that people have to fight against a decision which sees them lose out on money to which they are legally entitled.
“The failure to address this issue among others, when they first arose, I fear will have disastrous consequences post-pandemic.
“COVID-19 has crippled communities but so too has Welfare Reform,” added Mr Durkan.