Brits who lose out under Universal Credit switch should get extra cash, charities say

Charities told MPs that claimants should even be able to go BACK onto the old system if it wasn't what they were promised.

Laura Dewar, Policy Officer, Gingerbread told MPs on the Work and Pensions committee today: "There must be some way of there being help, if someone was given the wrong advice by the DWP, who was moved off and over, and was worse off – there must be a way of having some recompense."

Campaigning MP Frank Field instructed them to look into whether the Consumer Act can apply to the troubled new benefits system, where many hundreds of thousands are set to be worse off.

When someone buys a product that turned out to have not been as they were sold, Brits can apply for a refund or complain to a watchdog, it was argued.

MP Steve McCabe said today: "When you buy something that is not fit for purpose, you can generally get out of it within a certain period of time.

"Consumer protection is offered to everyone else."

Charities called for a flagging system to alert those thinking of switching to the new system to check with advisers first, for more training of specialist staff who understand Universal Credit, and a list of all the 'triggers' which can send someone on to the new benefits system without their knowledge.

1.6million are expected to "naturally" migrate over to the new benefits system this year, even though they could be worse off.

Moving house, having a child, or changing hours at work can push people to have to apply for Universal Credit.

DWP boss Amber Rudd has stopped those with severe disabilities from being moved over automatically, but many others are set to do so.

Single parents make up a quarter of those who have gone over naturally, Gingerbread's policy expert said.

And charities warned they were all aware of people who were at a higher risk of homelessness when they went onto the new benefits programme.

Maeve McGoldrick, Head of Policy and Campaigns at homeless charity crisis said: "If we were going to design the transition onto Universal Credit, one of the fundamental problems is to ensure that we don't cause homelessness as a result of it.

"It's that drop in income, combined with delays and errors in Universal Credit, and further cuts like Local Housing Allowance, it's the cumulative effect of the money they are losing, is putting housing at severe risk."

The MS Society said they had "definitely" seen an increase in the number of calls about people worried about homelessness.

She argued that Brits should be able to try Universal Credit out first before they moved over permanently – like Brits who are thinking of moving to a smart meter can do at the moment.

That gives people time to prepare and consider whether they would be better off, she said.

But the best way of solving the problems with Universal Credit would be to plug the gaps in funding it, she said.

"If there was more money invested, in housing support and work allowances, half of these problems wouldn't be an issue."

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