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Single working mums win High Court challenge over universal credit payments

FOUR working single mums won their High Court challenge today over how benefit payments under the government’s universal credit (UC) welfare reform scheme are calculated.

The women said they were struggling financially because of the way the system operates, with the main problem being having been paid wages on a date that “clashes” with their monthly assessment period for UC.

Danielle Johnson, Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart pointed out that if a claimant is paid early because of a weekend or bank holiday, the system counts them as having been paid twice in one month and they receive a “vastly reduced” benefit payment.

Claimants with childcare responsibilities or limited capacity for work are allowed to retain a certain amount of their income – known as a work allowance — for each assessment period, without that affecting the amount of benefits to be received.

Some months they were treated as receiving two months’ salary and were allowed to retain only one work allowance of £192.

Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Lewis ruled that “the Secretary of State had wrongly interpreted the relevant regulations” and reached “flawed” decisions in the women’s cases.

Solicitor Tessa Gregory, of law firm Leigh Day for Ms Johnson, urged Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd to ensure that “no other claimants are adversely affected” and for them to be “swiftly and fairly compensated.”

Ms Johnson, a part-time dinner lady from Keighley, West Yorkshire, was left around £500 out of pocket over the year and her fluctuating income led her to go into debt, Ms Gregory said.

Solicitor Carla Clarke, of the Child Poverty Action Group, which also brought the case on behalf of the women, said: “The result should mean that in future no-one will lose out on their universal credit awards or face the hardship that my clients have faced simply because of when their payday happens to fall.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said that it was a “disgrace” that the women had to take their case to court in the first place.

“The Tories must stop the roll-out of universal credit to ensure no more people are plunged into poverty and deprivation,” she added.

A spokesman for the DWP said: “We are carefully considering the court’s judgment.”

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