The DWP is in further disarray over universal credit (UC) following a new high court ruling. It has been forced to admit that its multi-million pound software will be unable to calculate the correct amounts of benefit that claimants covered by the decision are entitled to.
Last week’s court case was brought by four lone parents who are paid monthly and sometimes receive two months pay in the same UC assessment period, because of issues such as bank holidays.
The DWP effectively docked the claimants’ income by deciding that they were only entitled to one month’s work allowance for the two pay packets, meaning that the claimants were £192 worse off.
One of the most outrageous arguments deployed by the DWP was that it was the responsibility of the claimants to persuade their employers to change their payroll system, so that it fitted in with the DWP:
“Mr Brown also submitted that one purpose underlying the 2012 Act, and the 2013 Regulations, was to encourage changes in behaviour. He submitted that it would be open to the employees to ask their employers to alter the date or the method of paying salaries so that the problem with two months' salaries being paid within one assessment period would not arise.”
The court gave this argument short shrift, pointing out that the change in behaviour was supposed to be on the part of claimants, not third-party employers and that, in any case, three of the claimants had asked their employers to change and had been rebuffed..
They also refused to accept the DWP’s claim that the court could not find in favour of the claimants because the DWP’s software is not able to make the necessary calculations:
“Mr Brown further relied on the fact that the system of universal credit was intended to be automated. He referred to the evidence in particular of Ms McMahon indicating the importance of automation in the design of the system of universal credit and indicating that it would not be possible to make an automated change to address the issue that has arisen in this case. Ms McMahon indicates that any solution would have to involve a manual calculation of the amount of the award.”
The court pointed out that the DWP already had to make manual calculations in other circumstances, that the issue would involve less than 1% of UC payments and, in any case, the correct application of the law is what matters even if it does inconvenience the DWP.