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West Norfolk benefits claimants in 'misinformation' concern over Universal Credit

The coordinator of a Lynn-based disability service has expressed concern regarding clients being inaccurately advised to claim Universal Credit (UC).

Jeanette Jones, of West Norfolk Disability Information Service (WNDiS), said many of her clients have been instructed to claim UC not only by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs, but from other advice agencies in West Norfolk.

She warned people receiving old legacy benefits like Job Seekeer’s Allowance to “think carefully before claiming UC” by seeking independent specialist advice.

Ms Jones added: “Many of our clients are currently removed from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and being found fit for work as a result of ‘failing’ the Health Care Assessment.

“Once ESA stops they have no money so are forced to claim UC.

“However, many claimants do not know or are not being told that once the second stage appeal is lodged with the courts, some six-weeks later, appellants can claim appeal rate ESA until their appeal is heard.

“What a lot of people don’t know is if they claim UC they cannot go back on ESA.

“We are finding that this information is not being given to claimants, leaving them to make uninformed choices.”

Jeanette Jones, pictured right, with her WNDiS predecessor Jonathan Toye
Jeanette Jones, pictured right, with her WNDiS predecessor Jonathan Toye

Ms Jones said the government intends to put claimants receiving old legacy benefits under a “managed migration process,” which could take years to reach Lynn.

“Universal Credit does not facilitate enhancements for special needs resulting in less money for those most in need,” she continued.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said: “I have the highest regard for WNDiS who do an absolutely first-class job standing up for not just disabled people in our community, but others who are finding they have to claim benefits.

“I therefore take their criticisms extremely seriously.

“I certainly plan to investigate this as a matter of urgency, I do find it bizarre the full entitlement is not being given to claimants.

“Indeed, we are most fortunate to have one of the most impressive and professional Jobcentre Plus offices in the country.

Sir Henry Bellingham
Sir Henry Bellingham

“I know very well from my own work alongside Jobcentre Plus they assist both disabled and long-term unemployed people back into work, and nothing is too much effort or trouble.

“I also went to visit the Jobcentre Plus in order to receive a full briefing on the implementation of Universal Credit, and the overwhelming view among staff was that they very definitely could make a success of rolling out this new system.”

Sir Henry said he will take up the matter with Julia Nix, DWP district manager for East Anglia.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Jobcentres across Norfolk continue to advise customers that during an ESA appeal, they are able to claim the benefit at an appeal rate.”

She also said that Universal Credit replaces six benefits including ESA, and is made clear during the claiming process.

A spokeswoman for South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: " I have looked through our records and I am unable to find any correspondence relating to this. If Elizabeth does receive queries in relation to DWP then this is raised with them, and resolved normally very quickly."

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