Universal Credit isn't working

24 April 2019

Since graduating from Uni I developed a really strong work ethic, I've done some shitty jobs over the years and worked for some very strange people as well as some wonderful people. I worked my way up my job-before-last and managed to gain a professional qualification, be praised for my work ethic and service and leave knowing I'd done a bloody good job. I went back to work to a new job when Fred was nine months old, I worked full-time hours, gained a new qualification and managed to juggle studying, being a mum, working and running a home and felt pretty fabulous for it. Now, I'm in a position where I would be better off financially if I didn't work at all. 

I had to reduce my hours to 30 per week because Fred decided to pick up every illness going at nursery which resulted in me getting called out of work pretty much every two weeks and needing to take time off to look after him - I needed to find that work/life balance and thankfully have a very understanding employer who agreed to the reduction and gave me all the support that I needed. In this time I was receiving Universal Credit; a payment for my child in what would've been the old child tax credits, a small amount toward my rent and another smaller amount classed as 'personal allowance' all if this payment went toward the childcare costs (which costs the same as my rent). 

In order to get this payment calculated and awarded, I provided UC with all the relevant documentation and was advised that my amount would probably be the same each month as per my income. I called UC to ask when my payment would be made so I could budget around it and they gave my my payment and assessment period - I asked if I would have to declare my earnings and was advised that HMRC would work it out with them and I didn't have to do anything unless otherwise instructed via my UC Journal. So I didn't, I cracked on paying my childcare costs when the UC payment came through and went on my merry little way.

looking into the sky whilst working on laptop, stressed

It was only in February that I realised I wasn't receiving any help with my childcare costs that I could be entitled to some, with this in mind I reported a 'change in circumstances' and began to submit the evidence of my childcare costs and payments in the form of Invoices and Bank Statements dating back to November 2018. I didn't hear anything back from them until late March when I was asked to submit evidence (again) of my childcare costs and payments, I did, and still heard nothing. In early April, when I was invoiced (and had paid) this month's costs I received a message in my journal telling me that I had been overpaid by UC and owed them £700 for period of last year and owed more but was to wait for this to be calculated, in the same message I was advised to contact debt advise - they had no record of the debt as of yet and told me to call back when all the amounts owed had been calculated. 

Late April, after being told that I was potentially in thousands of pounds worth of debt without any explanation and basically told to sit tight, I received another message in my journal asking me to declare my earnings for April by the 3rd of May. Knowing that I only have one pay day per month (that had passed) and being super organised like I am, I called the number straight away and was advised that I had to declare my earnings on the 3rd of May when the assessment period was over. The adviser, as with most UC advisers (shout out the lovely folk that I've had the pleasure of working with and who have been incredibly helpful) that I have encountered was then very keen to end the conversation but I was very keen to ask some pretty reasonable questions such as "how much have I been overpaid?", "How did this happen?", "Am I in trouble?" and "What about the childcare costs? I haven't received a penny for those so do I sill class as having been overpaid?". I was given very short answers. 

HMRC and UC for some reason or another hadn't reported my earnings meaning that the means tested amount that I was receiving was based on an income of £0, thankfully this was nothing to do with me and not my fault but, I was still likely to end up paying the price...literally. I don't have an issue with paying money back, I don't want money that I'm not entitled to but, I am angry that this mistake has been made and I'm in a position where I would be better off not working as I'd get a decent enough UC payment live off without the childcare fees. I'm angry that UC are so chilled about a situation that leaves me in a position where I don't know if I'll be able to make ends meet next month and I'm annoyed that I'm being punished for being a working parent.

The system should be designed so that parents who are able yet don't want to work are given an incentive. Working parents who happily trot off to work shouldn't be put through the stresses of fretting about their finances because a system that clearly doesn't work has fucked up, again. I had a baby knowing I was able to support him, feed him and put a roof over his head but the irony of making such an informed decision is that the majority of people like me are forced into a situation where they're living in poverty until their kids are 2 and they might get some relief with funded childcare hours. It doesn't make sense, since talking about this in Instagram I've had people reach out to tell me that they've had to give up work to stay afloat, some people have had to give up their homes, stop their children from going to childcare because they can't afford it, someone else told me that if neither her or he partner worked, they'd be 2k better off. It's ridiculous. Since this, I've used both Entitledto and Turntous benefit calculators and taking my take home pay and childcare costs into consideration, have calculated that I'm actually being underpaid but will UC work this out too? We'll have to wait and see.

I appreciate that mistakes can happen and I understand that sometimes it's just tough shit but there should at the very least be some empathy from UC and some more details rather than what was pretty much 'you're in a shit tonne of debt now and we'll get back to you'. It's not good enough. Rant over. 


  1. Thank you for writing this! I claimed UC after my partner died and I was left with a fuck tonne of bills to pay on my own (with two kids). I worked full time, submitted my income etc and received a little amount per month. A year later, I got a letter saying I owed almost £5,000 (more than they'd ever given me) due to a UC error �� Appealed but they persisted so am now paying back £20 until I drop down dead too. The system is fucked ��

  2. What an utterly ridiculous and shitty situation! Why don't the two departments communicate? Keep us updated xx

  3. ditto. I had a system issue on my account where it refused to look at my earnings April-September so was saying I owed them a TONNE of money. Their letters give me HUGE anxiety, so much fear around them. When it works its great, but the stress of it all is horrid, so so horrid.

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  4. AH thats just so shitty! Not cool at all

    Candice x


  5. It's stressing me out just reading this post so I can't imagine how difficult they've made things for you.

  6. What a mission, sounds so frustrating to deal with!

  7. I remember when it was just Josh and I for 5 years, I was better off not working, but as someone who mentally needs the stimulation and doesn't want to live off handouts, I worked anyway. The system is flawed fundamentally with no incentive to encourage people to work x

  8. What an absolute nightmare situation - it sounds ridiculously complicated without the backup!
    Em x

  9. I really think it's unfair how the system penalises those who work part time to top up their income :( as a society we should be helping people get back into work. Really hope you get everything sorted!

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

  10. Oh my gosh this is awful. I hope it all gets sorted soon. I can't begin to imagine the stress it is causing. x

  11. Oh my goodness this all sounds like an absolute nightmare lovely so sorry that's happened to you. It all seems a little chaotic and unorganised (on their part?!!) Sounds like some big changes are needed!!
    Chantelle x
    The Girl In The Tartan Scarf

  12. I hope it all gets sorted - and they wonder why so many mums don't go back to work x

  13. It’s so ridiculous that you’d be better off not working. No wonder so many people chose not to work. If you work and need help it should be there because you’re helping yourself!


  14. Oh my gosh this sounds so frustrating! x


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