I’m disabled and I have 2 children so I’m on Universal Credit as well as PIPs. I have fought the fight and I have my sick element and my PIPs being paid for the time being. I thought I could take some time to do an online degree and so this time last year my application to OU went in and in October it commenced.
I applied for student finance as expected, only to find that the grant I got from student finance (because they had decided it was needed based on the Universal Credit payments I was receiving) for daily living (maintenance grant), is then taken straight off me by UC – the exact amount, deducted every month, because UC have decided that my student finance is ‘other income’. Therefore it is taken £ for £ instead of at the taper rate of 63p.
I accepted this fate and moved forward, finding a positive in the fact that SF (student finance) paid me every three months and UC took the equivalent on a monthly basis meaning I had a bulk payment to buy anything expensive I needed for my studies (e.g. laptop etc.)
The payment from SF in April was intended to cover my student expenses until June, at which point UC should have stopped taking the money from my UC pay. They didn’t stop. Their justification was that as I’d moved onto a single claim from a joint claim, the “reminder” they set to stop it hadn’t worked. They underpaid me by just over £1000 over the two months. I contacted the UC call centre and eventually they came to a decision on how much I was owed. I made plans to replace my battered furniture and fridge-freezer with the money because they both are broken.
Then came the notification… the ‘debt management’ department, to whom I pay more than I can afford a month for tax credit overpayment and other arrears, had earmarked it to clear my debts. This is the second time they’ve done this to me. The last time, they took the underpayment from my sick claim and split it between mine and my husband’s debt with the DWP.
They’re now claiming that I cannot have the underpayment unless I am in arrears with my utilities or rent, because as far as they are concerned – needing furniture and appliances is not a valid reason for needing the funds back – despite my support worker advising that having unfit furniture etc is a social services red flag for child abuse! I’ve also been told the decision cannot be appealed! Which I’ve never known of before.
And so, I await judgement again. Are my bills and reasons for needing money, that they couldn’t have taken had they paid it to me correctly in the first place, legitimate enough in their eyes that I will receive what was intended to be mine? Judged by a faceless person or even a computer to say whether I’m worthy.