By Tony Collins
What will the DWP’s IT suppliers be paid for processing 1p payment?
A couple received a penny in Universal Credit benefits for the month of February, according to the Bolton News.
It indicates that Universal Credit, even while it is handling small numbers of claimants, and it cannot make some payments without manual calculations, still has some way to go before anomalies are ironed out.
The payment of 1p might have been correct once the system calculated the money due to the couple against repayments due to the DWP. But it’s unclear why the system failed to flag up a possible anomaly before initiating a bank processing transaction of 1p for a month’s benefits.
It may be that the DWP’s IT suppliers will receive considerably more than 1p for processing and managing the transaction.
Emma Young and her partner Christian Boyce say they have had to go to a food bank for the first time and face eviction from their home.
Young works part-time in Asda. She told the Bolton News that the problem began in January, when she received a bumper wage packet for working extra hours over Christmas.
Her February pay check came four weeks later — within a month of when calculations for universal credit are made. This meant that she was logged as having received two months wages in a month.
Applying Universal Credit rules, the DWP cut the amount of benefit she received in February.
Young, aged 31, said she supports the household as her partner cannot work because of mental health issues, and the couple have debt from existing rent arrears and payday loans repayments.
She told the Bolton News: “I was due to be paid on February 13, looked at my bank account expecting to see some money and there was just one penny been put in.
“It’s left us crazy for this month. I can’t pay my rent, and now the car is gone – it’s horrendous. There’s nothing I can do, I’ve just got to suck it. I’ve had to go to a food bank, which is awful.
She contacted the JobCentre but said staff there kept “fobbing us off.”
A DWP spokesman described the 1p payment as “very little’ and said it was because Ms Young received two wages in one monthly period.
She had also received an advance, and a repayment of that Universal Credit payment meant the benefits she was given was reduced, the spokeman said, adding that benefit advances are available for those who need them.
“Claimants should inform their landlord if they face difficulties paying their rent, while landlords can inform us directly if there is a problem.”
It is probably just as well Universal Credit is handling fewer than 1% (about 35,000) of the 7-8 million claimants it is ultimately due to handle.
The 1p payment to Emma Young and Christian Boyce vindicates IDS’s slow and cautious approach to rolling out UC – but the slow roll-out could also mask the inadequacies of IT that may never be able to handle millions of claimants.
Will the IT ever work properly? The DWP is keeping its reports on the IT secret.