'Northampton woman on Universal Credit had to look for work within days of losing her husband', says former MP

Northampton job centre, Lower Mounts
Northampton job centre, Lower Mounts

Universal Credit is impacting on bereaved and disabled people in Northampton, according to a former MP, and there’s a lack of training for advice services to help them.

Sally Keeble, Labour's Parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, said she has come across a string of under-reported failings of the all-in one benefit system.

These included:
- A woman who had to apply for Universal Credit being expected to look for work within days of losing her husband. This happened despite rules which appear to allow for a period without being required to look for work after a bereavement.

- People with disabilities being directed to claim Universal Credit after being found fit for work – despite many such decisions being turned down at appeal. However, many lack the funds to live on while waiting for appeal.

- A Government concession on Carers’ Allowance is ineffective. The allowance should be continued for two weeks after the death of the person being cared for. However, the Carers’ Allowance was simply deducted from the person’s Universal Credit claim, so the concession made no difference.

- A lack of funding for advice work to help people with Universal Credit claims, and a lack of training for advice workers. Community organisations operating on a shoestring are having to find hundreds of pounds to pay for private sector training.

Mrs Keeble said there were even more cases that fell into the category of well-known issues. In one case a woman in part-time work was left with a total income of only £260 a month to pay all her living costs and £64 towards her rent,”

But she said she had raised the new flaws that Northampton claimants had identified with Neil Coyle MP, a Labour member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and he will take the matter up in Parliament.

Mrs Keeble said: "Some of these issues are flaws in the design of Universal Credit, some are glitches in the implementation of it,”

“These are still early days in the roll-out of Universal Credit. I hope the problems can be resolved now before more people are affected.

"It’s especially important that there’s more advice work and more training for advisers to be able to help people when things go wrong.”