|Placard: "Government knows what it's doing."|
Do you know what they are planning?
With the opposition, the Commons work and pensions select committee and even universal credit's instigator, Iain Duncan Smith, lining up to condemn the minimum six-week which new recipients must undergo before they see any cash, pressure is mounting on the government to reduce the arrears period. But this initial wait for cash may not be the only period during which UC claimants go without funds.For claimants who are in work and paid weekly (which is the case in many low-paid jobs that will qualify for UC top-ups), the small print of the benefit makes it clear that they will run into problems whenever they receive five pay packages withing the calendar months that are used to calculate their UC eligibility."When you have five weekly earnings payments within an assessment period, your income may be too high to qualify for universal credit in that month," say the DWP rules. "If this happens you will be notified that your income is too high and you will no longer ge universal credit. You can re-apply the following month as you should only get for wage payments in your assessment period then."The vagaries of the calendar will not, of course, affect the amount workers are actually earning — but a month with five Fridays (this December, for example) will see them automatically lose their entire universal credit for that period. "You will need to be prepared for a month when you get five wage payments in one assessment period and budget for a potential change in your monthly universal credit payments," the DWP guidelines state blithely.In 2018, March, June, August and November will all have five Fridays — so UC claimants who are paid weekly may have to budget for extraordinarily lean months for a third of the year. The DWP itself admitted in a report published last month that delays in UC payments were "a key factor" in claimants falling into rent arrears.Given that UC has supposedly been designed to mimic standard work pay patterns, this fluctuation seems particularly cruel: no employer, after all, docks pay following every five-week month, or pays them less because they are on a weekly wage.So, for those on UC and getting paid weekly this December, Christmas is cancelled!