Roger's Rants - part 18
Universal Credit, as you all may know has had a bumpy ride in and continues to not be entirely smooth.
The waiting period may have reduced, and there’s a Help to Claim service for questions and help when signing up (0800 144 8 444) but once you’re on it it can still take getting used to, or you may not be as well off as you were on old benefits.
For those self-employed, not much has changed in that you still need to show proof of your income – final earnings amount - to DWP (via online journal) to get the right amount paid.
What we have seen is that people are not getting much help if they are not earning what is expected by DWP – they’re not meeting the ‘minimum income floor’. 43% of the clients we saw in the last year do not meet the minimum income floor.
DWP will expect the self-employed (after 12 months of self-employment) to be earning a minimum amount, and base their Universal Credit on that – even if they’re not getting that.
So, the wages aren’t being topped up so perhaps as much as they need to help afford bills.
The reasoning is quite sound – that you’re expected to work a set number of hours based on your claimant commitment, e.g. 30 a week. If you’re not ill, a carer, parent to young child (under 3) or a full-time student.
However, self-employment is not always that straight forward, and work is not guaranteed. This can create hardship for those whose work is seasonal, and perhaps are looking for employed work temporarily, but struggle to find work flexible enough to fit in with self-employed work which they need as it will pick up again in a different season.
E.g. single parent with child of 6 self-employed as gardener can’t always find 30 hours of work in the winter and struggles to fit a temporary job round school hours.
We have seen this lead to debt and stress, impacting people’s mental health and being challenged with the rigidity of the system, with UC payments changing and fluctuating.
We would like DWP to have a more flexible approach to UC and the self-employed. For when people submit their earnings, their work coaches to notice and discuss either temporarily lowering how many hours they’re expected to work or the reality of finding temporary work and what level of work they can meet without being sanctioned.