BENEFITS EXPERT: Will Court of Appeal decision lead to benefit arrears being paid?
Q. I have heard of the recent Court of Appeal decision concerning problems with Universal Credit with some people getting underpaid or no payments at all.
This has happened to me before, will this decision lead to any benefit arrears being paid for example?
A. The court decision referred to concerned how some people received reduced or nil Universal Credit payments whenever their wage payment date changed due to things like bank holidays, salary paid early as their normal payment date fell on a non-banking day, etc. In very general terms each wage payment from the employer and employees point of view was for a specific month, however the Universal Credit payment system only looked at when the payment was made to the individual. The unfortunate consequence of this was the UC calculation combined 2 wages in one assessment period and therefore resulted in an incorrect payment. There was nothing in the administration of the benefit that would allow this error to be corrected. The Court of Appeal held that the current rules were unlawful.
Moving forward the government has not yet confirmed if it will appeal the decision to The Supreme Court or take steps to introduce legislation to correct the shortcomings in the legislation. There is also no indication if steps will be taken to identify anyone previously affected and if they will be paid any arrears. Approximately 85,000 people are thought to have been affected with the average annual loss being about £500.
Our advice currently is that if you have been affected then use your usual rights in challenging the decision citing amongst other things the Court of Appeal decision. If any further changes or clarification is forthcoming from the government we will of course keep readers appraised.