GPs and dental practices can't tell who is eligible for free treatment under Universal Credit - meaning some claimants are going without.
The Labour Party has responded to findings revealed by Left Foot Forward that people on Universal Credit are being denied prescriptions and dental care.
The failure stems from practices being unable to identify who is eligible for free support, as the Universal Credit system lumps several benefits into one – with practices having previously been able to distinguish between those entitled to free prescriptions and dental care and those not.
As a result, charities have heard reports of people being fined because the administration system is unable to cope.
The confusion is leaving people already on the margins either having to fork out for dental care and prescriptions themselves – leaving them out of pocket – or going without treatment altogether, according to testimony the single parents charity Gingerbread has received, which has been seen by Left Foot Forward.
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said:
“This is further evidence of the failings of this Government’s Universal Credit programme.”
“It is absolutely vital that Universal Credit is properly aligned with other services to ensure that people can continue to access them free at the point of use.
“Labour is urging the Government to pause and fix the Universal Credit programme before it causes harms to millions of families.”
It is understood that Labour will be raising the issue in Parliament this week.
One Universal Credit claimant, who sought emergency dental treatment earlier this year, told Left Foot Forward:
“There was no box for UC on the exemption form, so I said it was the same as JSA – as that was the benefit I had been switched from. I then received a letter billing me for the treatment followed by a fine saying I wasn’t entitled.
“The award letter I sent as evidence was for the month previously, as they only send them out if there is a change – so it didn’t clearly state that I was in receipt at the time of treatment.
Sinn Fein are also now calling for an immediate halt to the Universal Credit scheme following a series of disasters:
Alex Maskey MLA, Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Welfare Rights & Anti-Poverty, said:
“The implementation of Universal Credit should be halted immediately.
Universal Credit is a policy that is riddled with faults, complications and delays. It is a policy that was supposedly designed to simplify the benefits system but has actually caused more hardship and deepened poverty.
The reality is that Universal Credit is an instrument of the Tory war on the most vulnerable in our society.”
Last Wednesday the government agreed to make the phone lines for Universal Credit free, after coming under pressure from the Labour Party.
Pressure is now building for them to cut the current six week wait down to four, ahead of the upcoming budget.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.