Call for overhaul of Universal Credit as disabled people are left without benefit for weeks

A SCOTTISH charity and East Lothian MP George Kerevan are calling for an overhaul of how Universal Credit works for disabled people.

Hundreds of vulnerable people are forced to go online to claim the new benefit, being trialled in East Lothian, but charity Fair (Family Advice and Information Resource) and Kerevan insist more needs to be done to support those with disabilities.

The MP and Robert Davie, senior advice worker at Fair, which helps people with learning disabilities and their carers in the Lothian area, said the number of vulnerable people looking for help had soared since the introduction of Universal Credit in March.

One case they are investigating involves a 40-year-old man with learning disabilities who has been struggling to survive since he was refused Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

After an appeal, the decision to refuse ESA was overturned but he had to apply for his benefits under the new Universal Credit system.

Davie has written to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) saying they “failed” the man, who was forced to get into debt to survive after he went 10 weeks without benefits.

He wrote: “I believe he has been failed by DWP and welfare reform. He attended an ESA work capability assessment and received zero points, and was refused ESA from March 16.

“Due to his learning difficulties, inability to understand the decision and arrange support, he was unable to claim your alternative benefit Universal Credit until April 20.

“Despite not having computer skills, having learning difficulties and being a vulnerable person receiving 14 hours per week support financed by East Lothian Council, no arrangement has been made to have his rent paid directly to East Lothian Council.

“The amount of Universal Credit awarded is dramatically less than he would have received if still on ESA and receiving Housing Benefit.

“His award does not include any limited capability for work component. To compensate for the reduction in benefit, he will need to apply for a discretionary housing payment and may need additional support from scant local authority resource.”

Davie said it took him four weeks to get his care worker to help him fill out a form for Universal Credit and then he had to wait five weeks for his first payment.

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