Derek Twigg MP met with Department for Work & Pensions officials in London on Wednesday 26 April 2017 following a significant increase in constituents who have been suffering hardship because of problems with the introduction of Universal Credit in Halton.
A large number of constituents have complained to Derek about being left with little or no money because of delays in processing claims, problems with late payments, issues with the payment of childcare costs, housing costs, accruing rent arrears and problems in getting through on the phone lines and responses to entries in online journals.
In his meeting with officials, Derek raised his concerns that the system was putting a number of working people on low incomes and vulnerable sick people into severe financial hardship and called for immediate action to resolve the problems.
“I have been raising cases with the DWP for a number of weeks and also this week, in Parliament. It is absolutely unacceptable that low paid and vulnerable constituents should have to put up with financial hardship and stress caused by a poorly planned and insensitive system. I was not prepared to stand by and allow this to continue. I am pleased to have had a constructive meeting with officials this week but we must now quickly see an end to the hardships being inflicted upon my constituents”.
Derek also asked the below Parliamentary Question on 24 April 2017:
Has the Minister had discussions with his colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions about universal credit and the impact it is having on many of my constituents who are not being paid for weeks and sometimes months on end and are therefore going into arrears? That is in addition to being hit by the bedroom tax and other benefit changes. Has he had these discussions, or will he do so, because what is going on in my constituency is a disgrace?
Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London)
We have had discussions with DWP colleagues, and I make two brief points to the hon. Gentleman. First, universal credit advances are available for new claims, and those should be taken up. Secondly, DWP research shows that after four months the proportion of universal credit claimants who were in arrears at the start of their claims had fallen by a third. So there is an initial problem, and the advance claims are there to cope with that, but over time the situation is improving.