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Lynette, 48, and Mark Davies receive the benefit as Lynette is unable to work due to disabilities. However, they did not receive their usual payment last month because Mark’s wages are paid every four weeks rather than monthly – and so he was paid twice in the month-long Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) assessment period.
This put the dad of one above the earnings threshold for Universal Credit, meaning the family will get no payment between October 29 and December 29.
Cardiff Council uses the same system as the DWP to monitor wages, meaning the family’s council tax has also risen.
Mark is the sole earner of the family, receiving just over £1,200 every four weeks in his job at a Co-op store.
Speaking from her council property in Fairwater, Cardiff, Lynette said: “We feel very upset and very anxious. It’s not helping our mental health. I dread the post coming. We’ve really struggled in the last couple of weeks. We’ve managed to pay the bills but everything else has been a struggle day by day.”
A household’s Universal Credit payments and council tax vary from month to month depending on earnings, DWP and the council said.
The single-income Davies family receive support because Lynette’s fibromyalgia, diabetes and severe arthritis prevent her working, Wales Online says.
The couple’s 28-year-old daughter Sophie has mental health issues and is also unable to work.
Lynette added: “Our first Universal Credit payment was in July. It’s around £178 a month, but because my husband gets paid every four weeks and Universal Credit is monthly, the DWP claimed he was paid twice last month.
“One of my husband’s wage payments was October 21 and the next was on November 18. They were both put together and the implication was that he was actually getting £2,500 a month.
“I tried contacting the DWP but they said there was nothing they could do. It was such a shock. We’re getting kicked in the teeth left, right and centre.
“The DWP didn’t even tell us [initially]. I had to check the payment on November 25 and it said we were not getting anything that month. In a panic I rang the DWP to be told we wouldn’t be getting anything for November.”
The family usually benefit from a council tax reduction but Labour’s Cardiff Council upped the rate to £184 a month after Mark was judged to have had an increase in earnings last month — despite receiving his usual four-weekly amount.
Lynette continued: “My husband has worked at the Co-op in Fairwater for more than 20 years and he’s always been paid every four weeks.
“He technically gets 13 wage payments a year and Universal Credit is paid 12 times a year. The DWP said the same thing could possibly happen again next August and September because of how my husband is paid.”
Lynette says the council advised the family earlier this year to apply for Universal Credit because of their financial struggles, but they now wish they had never done so.
“Because I have disabilities and received an enhanced rate of Personal Independence Payment, our council tax was at £78 a month, but when we started on Universal Credit, the council tax jumped to £153 and now again to £184,” Lynette added.
Lynette says she has applied for the council tax benefit to be reinstated next month. The council says a household whose income decreases can expect their council tax to decrease.
The mum said: “We’re already under a lot of pressure because my mum has had to go into a nursing home because of her dementia.
“As a result the council is not going to let us stay in this house long-term, because the tenancy is in my mum’s name.”
The council has told Lynette she cannot take over the tenancy because it was already taken over before — when her father died and it passed to her mother — and the law states this cannot happen more than once.
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She added: “The council has only given us occupancy until they move us. It’s been my home for 43 years. I’ve been trying to sort through things in the house and finding things I’ve never seen before. It is hard.
“We are also being penalised around £80 of Universal Credit [each month] because we have mum’s bedroom empty. But it’s not our fault because we are waiting to be rehoused to a two-bedroom property.
“We’re not living. We’re existing day by day, waiting to know when and where we have to move. My husband works in Fairwater, and this area is all myself and my daughter have ever known, but we’re told we could be moved anywhere in Cardiff. It seems as soon as we get over one hurdle there’s another.”
The DWP told WalesOnline the family had been offered a “budgeting advance”, but later clarified that these offers were not made in the month that the family went without payment.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal Credit adjusts to a household’s earnings to ensure people receive the right level of support. Mr Davies received more than £2,500 in wages during the couple’s last assessment period and, as a result, their payment was reduced. But if Mr Davies earns less over the next month then the couple will see an increase in their next payment.”
And a council spokesperson said: “Eligibility for a council tax reduction is assessed on income received each month and the amount of reduction applied to a household’s account can vary from month to month depending on earnings received.
“So, a household expecting their income to decrease one month, can expect the amount of council tax reduction they are eligible for to increase.
“The council’s money advice team is available to help residents experiencing money problems and can offer advice with budgeting, income maximisation, claiming grants and discounts as well as practical support.”
The spokesperson added tenancy of the family’s council house has already been taken over once and “the law in relation to tenancy succession is clear that only one succession can take place”.
She said: “With around 8,000 people currently on the housing waiting list in the city — a significant proportion of whom are currently living in overcrowded conditions — it’s essential the council makes the best use of its stock by matching households with the right sized home for their needs.
“There is very high demand for social housing in the city but unfortunately, only a limited number of lets become available each year and these are allocated based on priority need. Tenants who are waiting to downsize to a smaller property are advised to consider a number of areas of choice on their applications to improve their chances of receiving an offer of suitable accommodation.”
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