Updates at the end of this post
Let’s finish the week as we started it – ie trying to make sense of the Universal Credit “system”:
I just finished speaking to the young Universal Credit claimant I wrote about earlier in the week. Readers of this site will be familiar with this woman’s story. This woman must carry out her Universal Credit compliance activities through Croydon jobcentre even though she lives in Colchester. She’s also been having £100+ deducted from her Universal Credit payments each month to repay a Universal Credit advance payment – the advance payments that David Gauke assures us will help people avoid (don’t laugh) the debts caused by delays in Universal Credit payments.
Now, the DWP has landed another debt on this young woman. This is a tax credit debt that she is sure she does not owe. The DWP has suddenly (this week) started deducting £25 a month from this woman’s Universal Credit payments. That’s another £25 gone each month from this woman’s money. She didn’t expect this deduction (at all) and she hasn’t budgeted for it. You see what I mean when I say that the state keeps broadsiding people with debts they can’t pay.
To cut a long story short:
This woman was among the many affected by the Concentrix tax credit scandal last year. The HMRC claimed she was living with someone (she wasn’t – like many caught up in the Concentrix debacle, she’d never even heard of the person she was accused of living with).
To start, the HMRC told her she owed a couple of thousand pounds in tax credit overpayments. Fighting that took months and endless phone calls which often required her to spend literally ages on hold. The amounts that the HMRC said this woman owed changed all over the place. Deductions were made from her benefit payments. This went on for an absolute age. I remember it well. The stress it all caused was extreme.
Earlier this year, this woman was told that she now owed about £1382 in child tax credit overpayments. She says nobody could tell her why. Then, the deductions for these so-called “overpayments” from her benefits stopped for a couple of months. She thought that meant the HMRC had decided she was right to say she owed nothing. Last month, no overpayment deductions were taken from her Universal Credit payment. There was relief all round. That really did seem to be the end of that.
Then last night, the woman looked at her Universal Credit account – and saw a message saying that £25 would be taken out for tax credit overpayments. She had absolutely no idea where that figure came from and/or why the message suddenly turned up. As I say, she wasn’t expecting it and certainly hadn’t budgeted for it. That money must now come from money set aside for other bills. This is why people fall into rent arrears, just by the way. People literally have no idea how much money they’ll get from month to month. Surprise deductions are made from their Universal Credit payments and people are not prepared. They have to try and find the shortfall at extremely short notice.
The woman says that trying to get to the bottom of things on the phone today has been an absolute nightmare and then some. The HMRC couldn’t “help” any more. Her (supposed) tax credit debt apparently now belongs to the DWP, because she is a Universal Credit claimant. Tax credits and debt apparently now come under the auspices of the DWP for some UC claimants (be afraid of that. These people literally couldn’t find their own arses with a searchlight. How they will manage the intensely complex tax credits and tax credit debt system – which was already a shambles – I do not know).
Or maybe I do. The woman says she called the Universal Credit helpline. They told her to talk to the DWP’s debt management department. Debt management said that she owed over £80 in tax credit overpayments. She asked how that could be. Other figures were bandied about. She said the numbers and figures didn’t add up. Debt management told her to call the tax credits helpline number. She called the tax credits helpline number. Tax credits told her to call Universal Credit..I just called the Universal Credit helpline to ask how all this should work. They told me to ring the DWP’s debt management line…
You get the picture.
More soon. I’m going for a drink.
Updates 8 October
- The woman in this post says that after a lot of debate, DWP debt management agreed to send her a breakdown of the tax credit overpayment amount she supposedly owes. She must wait a fortnight for that statement to arrive. The DWP confirmed that it was managing tax credit debt when I rang on Friday.
- Apparently, the HMRC should send people a letter called ‘Your tax credits overpayment’ (TC1131) if their tax credits debt is transferred to the DWP. Has anyone actually received on of these?
- People have left comments on facebook to say that they’ve also had tax credit debt repayments deducted from their Universal Credit payments – between £40 and £60 per payment. Deductions stop and then start again.
The woman in this post says she takes screenshots of her Universal Credit account most days, because she doesn’t trust information in it not to change. Several months ago, she received a message in her Universal Credit account to say that £528 would be deducted from her Universal Credit account for overpayments. That notice frightened her. She couldn’t understand where the £528 amount had come from and she sure as hell couldn’t afford to lose £528 that month.
Here’s that notice:
This is a shambles.