DWP denies £326 cost of living payment to UC claimants

UC claimants

The first £326 payment was supposed to be given to around 8 million people in receipt of means-tested state benefits in July

Charities have condemned the “outrageous” decision to deny some vulnerable Britons the emergency cost of living payment over benefit sanctions.

The first £326 payment was supposed to be given to around 8 million people in receipt of means-tested state benefits in July – but it emerged that some on Universal Credit have missed out.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guidance for JobCentre staff told them to refuse the one-off payment to some who have been sanctioned, according to The Mirror.

The guidance is said to have told staff that those who Universal Credit was stopped due to a sanction during the ‘qualifying period’ this spring – saying they ‘will not be entitled to a cost of living payment’.

Sanctions – which can see Universal Credit payments cut or stopped – can be imposed if staff decide they ‘fail to take all reasonable actions to find paid work’.

Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said the government had to rethink the “outrageous” decision to allow the special payment to be withheld while energy bills and food prices soar.

This decision compounds the distress sanctions cause, inflicting significant damage on people’s mental health, said the charity leader.

Winstanley added: The DWP must urgently review this decision and administer the cost-of-living payment to those affected as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary suffering and harm.

Green party peer Natalie Bennett said it was ‘utterly indefensible – people who’ll have most desperate need of the help denied it’.

Marc Francis from the anti-poverty group Z2K Trust also urged the DWP to reconsider penalising those who have problems with their Universal Credit claim.

He said: These one-off payments are designed first and foremost to ensure people aren’t left unable to afford to put food on the table food or freezing in their homes.

Rethink charity said it was ‘alarmed’ at the rise in sanctions. The latest figures, released on Tuesday, show that just over 186,000 sanctions were handed out between January and April of this year.

It is more than double the 74,000 penalties issued for the same period in 2019 before the Covid pandemic. The mental health charity called on the DWP to put ‘an immediate end’ to the ‘cruel’ sanctions for those living with mental illness and disabilities.

The Z2K Trust said the sanctions’ regime was ‘notoriously over-zealous’, and left many people without any money for weeks on end – saying it was one reason why so many are turning to the food banks.

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