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Universal Credit: Fluctuating Income

Volume 654: debated on Monday 11 February 2019

4. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the monthly assessment period for universal credit takes into account a claimant’s fluctuating income. (909110)

Monthly reporting allows universal credit to be adjusted on a monthly basis, which ensures that if a claimant’s income falls, they will not have to wait several months for a rise in their UC award.

My constituent who works for the NHS is paid a day outside her assessment period, meaning that she has to borrow money to pay the bills when she loses the benefits she is entitled to. Why, despite the High Court’s ruling, are this Government still making the lives of single working parents as difficult as possible?

As I have said, we will respond to the judicial review in due course. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that, where the employer pays a claimant on a fixed date every month but that changes because of a weekend or a bank holiday, we tell the employer that they should still report the actual pay date to the real-time information system, so that the UC claim is unaffected. Guidance is available from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on that.

I think the Minister has just referred to the situation that affects my constituent, who is paid on the last Friday of every month, so as the calendar date varies, there are occasions when there is a nil award for UC. Will he confirm that that issue is being looked at and considered?

Yes. As I have said, this is a matter where employers need to take action, and guidance is available from HMRC. As I understand it, employers were once again reminded before Christmas that they need to get the right payment date in place.

My constituents in this situation are still being harassed by the Department. Is the Minister going to make the change in line with the High Court judgment from 11 January or for all claims that fall into this category from the very beginning?

I completely understand why colleagues are asking these questions and why they want answers, but I have to repeat myself at this stage and say that the Department is considering the High Court’s judgment. I hope therefore that the hon. Lady will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Very good of the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) to join us. He will be pleased to know that he is just in time.

My constituent received an unexpected late payment for temporary work during his UC assessment period, which resulted in a nil award. Surely the time has come to ensure that the assessment period recognises when the money was earned and not when it was received.

We had a discussion about what happens where there is a fixed payment date, but I point out that where two awards had been made in one assessment period it would mean that the claimant would be entitled to a maximum UC award in the following assessment period.