Disabled woman and partner could lose their home after being denied benefits for three months due to Universal Credit screw-up
Linda Humphrey, 59 and her partner Norman Howe, 47, owe £1200 and claim to have been issued an eviction notice after falling behind with their rent and council tax when she was in hospital last year.
The pair, who live in Grimsby, were getting more than £1,000 a month between them – claiming benefits including employment support allowance, housing benefit and a carer's allowance.
But they moved onto Universal Credit in January after being told they would be better off by a charity and were left with just £295 last month to live on.
"I took advice and went onto Universal Credit, but it was the biggest mistake of my life and we’ve had nothing but problems," Norman told The Sun Online.
Now the couple say could lose their home within weeks after they claim to have been issued an eviction notice for not paying their rent while they were sorting out their Universal Credit.
The couple believed their housing benefit was being paid directly to their landlord – and any leftover money was going just on food.
Linda lost her leg last year because of diabetes, and has a range of other conditions including angina that leave her unable to leave the house or even go upstairs.
And to make matters even worse, Linda’s son Paul died last year of cancer, and the family had to fork out thousands for his funeral too.
Because they made a fresh claim to be moved onto Universal Credit and were not automatically transferred by the Department for Work and Pensions, they were not covered by transitional payments which protect anyone going on to the new system from losing out while their details are processed.
"I’d rather be back on income support – it’s much simpler," Norman added.
"It’s got a lot more confusing now, but they said it would be better all under one system.
"We're at our wits end over this and up to our eyeballs in debt – having to rely on friends, family and credit cards to stay afloat."
Universal Credit is gradually replacing Employment and Support Allowance as the main benefit to claim if someone is out of work due to sickness or a disability.
It is part of Government reforms to replace six benefits with one payment, and they are paid per household too, rather than individually.
But the rollout has been beset with issues – with thousands said to have been driven to food banks as a result of waits, and claims that they are fuelling domestic violence cases.
But Norman said: “I shouldn’t have to be fighting for what I’m owed.
“The Government should be helping carers more – I work 24/7 not just the 35 hours required.
“If I wasn’t around it would be up to the social care system to look after her, and it would cost them even more.
“The current Universal Credit system is very unfair – we shouldn’t be struggling for every penny and struggling to pay the bills too.”
But because the couple are in arrears they now can’t claim for social housing either, or afford the fees for an estate agent either.
“It’s caused us a lot of stress and arguments over money, wondering where the next penny is going to come from.
“I’ve had to trade in my car to get a mobility scooter.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do – we’ll have to go into temporary accommodation.
“And if we do – will it be suitable for my partner? Where are we going to go?”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said that as long as circumstances stay the same, no one will lose any money when moving onto Universal Credit.
After being approached by The Sun it said that Norman and Linda would be better off on Universal Credit once their additional benefits were instated, and would be paid any money they were owed next month.
A DWP spokesperson said: "We have paid all arrears and apologised for the delay, and they will now receive more each month on Universal Credit than they did under the previous system."
Willows Estate agent declined to comment.
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