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Families with disabled children experience lengthy delays with Universal Credit payments leading to rent arrears

Tuesday 3rd October 2017

Contact's helpline is hearing from families with disabled children who are experiencing lengthy delays in getting Universal Credit payments leaving them in financial hardship and leading to rent arrears.

As a result, we are repeating calls to the government to stop the rollout of the benefit until the delays in payments are resolved.

Derek Sinclair, Contact's welfare rights specialist, said:

"We support calls to suspend the rollout of the full service. We are hearing from families who are waiting many weeks before they receive any payments. This has led to some families caring for a disabled child getting into rent arrears and taking on other debts."

"Yesterday the government said the rollout would continue and highlighted the advance payments that are available. These are called 'Universal Credit advances'. Families should be aware that you can only get an advance of 50 per cent of your likely entitlement and this needs to be paid back.

"So while they are a help, they don't prevent the claimant facing hardship. We would urge any family having to claim Universal Credit to call the Contact helpline for advice."

"It was terrifying when we didn't have any other source of income"

Leah Grealish from Southwark, mum to 12-year-old Molly who has autism, said:

"We were changed onto Universal Credit without warning when we moved house. It took 10 weeks to get our first payment, and we had a huge amount of rent arrears and Council tax arrears in that time. They offered us an advance payment to get us through the 10 weeks, but this was only £1,000, and it was to be repaid at a rate of £172 per month once our payments started.

"This all happened at a time we were experiencing multiple major challenges including moving house, my daughter's school transport being removed and my husband and I having to give up work as a result. It was terrifying when we didn't have any other source of income.

"When our payments did start they were massively reduced, because the Department for Work and Pensions was recovering an overpayment they had mistakenly made. On top of this we were also initially affected by the cut in the disability addition which had a huge impact. It was really hard getting £30 a week less for our disabled child.

"Thankfully we managed to get Molly's Disability Living Award increased from the middle rate to the highest rate care component so we are now exempt from the cut in the disability addition. But it made me realise how difficult it would be to manage with such a big cut despite all the extra costs associated with my daughter's disability remaining the same."

Sign our petition to the PM to stop cuts to payments for disabled children under Universal Credit

Contact is very worried that more than 100,000 parents with disabled children are at risk of being worse off on Universal Credit. For that reason we have asked the prime minister to reverse cuts to child disability payments under Universal Credit.

More than 3,000 people have signed our petition so far.  Join them and help us stop cuts to payments for disabled children under Universal Credit, by signing our petition today.

Derek Sinclair added:

"Even if the problems with delayed payments are resolved, Universal Credit will still not be fit for purpose. Contact is calling on the government to take urgent action to scrap cuts to payments for disabled children under Universal Credit that will leave many families worse off by more than £1600 a year."