A Chesterfield woman says she is at her ‘wits’ end’ after becoming tangled up in the Universal Credit process – and fears she may have to sell her home.
Liz Bargh, of New Whittington, was forced to retire as a South Yorkshire police officer in 2001 after damaging her spine in a car crash while on duty and received a pension on medical grounds.
The 50-year-old – now a foster carer with Derbyshire County Council – applied for Universal Credit in March this year after reading a magazine article and she wondered whether it was something that applied to her.
But her application was refused because her pension is classed as her income.
And unknowingly to Ms Bargh, by applying for Universal Credit, this automatically stopped her entitlement to her other tax credits.
As a result, Ms Bargh says she has received no money for eight months and is frustrated at the whole process of trying to get it sorted.
“The situation is absolutely abysmal,” Ms Bargh said. “I could lose my home which I have worked for all my working life.
“I am at my wits’ end.”
After many appointments and letters, Ms Bargh was told to apply for Universal Credit again and she is now awaiting the outcome – but says she is not hopeful.
In the mean time, Ms Bargh said she has received a letter notifying her that she is entitled to just £3.60 a week employment support allowance.
“Injury or medical pension should not be viewed as a wage and will further persecute those who have trained for a long time to be in a career that through no fault of their own they have lost,” Ms Bargh added.
“Any forces personnel whether police or armed forces that may have been medically retired do to injury or mental health issues who have lost their career will also find themselves in a worse off situation under Universal Credit and this is going to further affect what is already a difficult situation to be in.”
A spokesperson for The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said they would advise anyone already receiving a tax credit to speak with HMRC or DWP before making a claim for Universal Credit. The spokesperson added that Universal Credit is ‘means tested’ - just like most benefits.
A spokesperson for HMRC said that anyone who applies for Universal Credit will have their other tax credits cancelled.
More information at www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-tax-credits/universal-credit-and-tax-credits