Single Dad on Universal Credit gets NOTHING for 2 months because of pay cheque glitch – here’s how to avoid the same trap

A DAD who gave up work to look after his baby son was paid NOTHING for two months when he went onto Universal Credit – and it could happen to you too.

Simon Finch, 39, from Hadleigh near Ipswich, has had to quit working for his dad’s family business to become a full-time-dad to baby Finley, 10 months.

But because his final paycheque came through after he first applied for Universal Credit, he was presented with £0, leaving him without money to pay rent, bills or food. Despite applying early thinking he would be all prepared, now he's around £800 in debt.

He told the Sun Online: “My paycheque in August messed me up completely. When September came along and I had to pay my rent for October, I didn’t have anything there.

“I had no money in the bank, I had been paying to get my baby clothes and things, and I was left with nothing.”

Universal Credit looks at the earnings in one calendar month to work out how much Brits can get paid. But any income they get in that time can mean benefits may be slashed.

Because Simon got paid from his old job during his assessment period, he was then told he had to wait until the next month for any help. Overall this meant he went more than eight weeks for his first benefits payment.

He’s just one of hundreds of people who have said they are being pushed into debt on the new benefits system, which rolls six payments into one monthly sum.

Last week the Chancellor revealed that Brits will be able to get more help moving onto Universal Credit – but those changes won’t come in until 2020.

He also announced Brits will be able to earn up to £630 more as a result of changes in the work allowance, but those won’t start to kick in until April either.

Simon said: “It was all because of that first payment, if I had applied later it wouldn’t have happened.

“The balance on my journal said zero.

“I’m overdrawn and getting bank charges because the money just isn’t there. It’s not a great start to taking care of my son.”

Simon, who previously worked as an agricultural engineer making equipment for brewers, had to take out a £500 emergency advance to help him out, and is maxing out his credit card too.

“My rent is 675, that didn’t even cover it,” he added.

“I’ve cut lots of my bills, but my council tax is still £100, I have to pay for food for both of us, and I can’t get out of my TV contract until next year.

“I’ve worked all my life and only had to claim Jobseeker's once for a few months – that was a lot easier. If the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

He thought he would be getting around £1000 a month in total in Universal Credit – which would include help with his housing, child tax credits, child benefit and income support.

In his first month he got £0, and his second month he got £860 after the debts he owed were taken off.

He’s now £800 in debt and struggling to buy food and pay off bills.

“Just because I had my final pay cheque in August, it’s messed me up for September onwards.

“I’m overdrawn on my bank account, and getting overdraft charges because the money isn’t here.”

Bayliffs and debt letters have been coming in too – all since he first was forced to apply for Universal Credit.

To make matters worse, he’s got a court summons because he’s behind with his council tax.

Universal Credit assessment periods – what you need to know

  • Your payments are calculated from the day you submit your claim for Universal Credit. If you're expecting a final pay cheque or other form of income, it could be better to wait until that comes in before making a claim for Universal Credit help – that way it won't be included. Bear in mind it will be a minimum of five weeks before you get a payment
  • If you're paid monthly by your employer, and all your circumstances stay the same, your Universal Credit should stay the same
  • But if you get paid more than that, every two or four weeks, then your Universal Credit claim will change to reflect that – effectively cutting the amount of benefits you will able to get for that month
  • If that happens, you will be notified that your income is too high and you don't qualify for help – but then you will have to re-apply the following month
  • The DWP say: "You will need to be prepared for a month when you get 2 earnings payments in one assessment period and budget for a potential change in your monthly Universal Credit payments".
  • They also say: "Speak to your work coach if there is a gap in your Universal Credit payments and you need help to budget and manage your money more effectively"
  • Your benefit payments can also change can be because of finding or finishing a job, your rent going up or down, changing address, or becoming too ill to work
  • If you work more, your benefits will automatically decrease



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But luckily kind friends and family have been helping Simon out buying clothes and nappies for his little one.

“Finley will be 10 months soon, he’s teething and I’m doing it all on my own, it’s a struggle.

“Winter’s coming too and with a baby you have to have the heating on.

“I can’t move somewhere cheaper because my family network and support are all here. Universal Credit is just so stressful.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal Credit payments reflect a household’s circumstances as closely as possible during each monthly assessment period.

“A person’s income during their first assessment period, including final wages, will therefore be reflected in their initial payment. If earnings or circumstances change during subsequent assessment periods this is taken into account and payments will adjust.

"This ensures that if a claimant’s income falls, they will see a rise in their UC payment."

The new system will roll six benefits into one monthly payment – but has been beset with problems so far.

MPs have even threatened to block the Universal Credit switch altogether unless protections are made for the vulnerable.

Today The Sun revealed that a loophole in the Universal Credit system has let fraudsters claim £100,000 in fake advance payments.

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