Universal Credit is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to those on a low income, or who have found themselves out of work. Every four weeks, claimants can expect to receive a Universal Credit payment to provide regular financial support. Universal Credit is designed to create ease for claimants and the benefit system as a whole.
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However, one single mother has challenged how the system works, after she claimed her payments were slashed.
Sharon Pantellerisco, 41, was working 16 hours each week while claiming the Universal Credit sum to which she was entitled.
Because of her working hours, Ms Pantellerisco should have been made exempt from the £20,000 a year benefit cap.
The benefits cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit a person can receive.
It affects a wide range of well-known benefits including Universal Credit, Child Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support.
However, due to the date she was paid by the organisation she works for, her hours were considered to fall short of the requirement.
Ms Pantellerisco was paid every four weeks, instead of every month, meaning the DWP ended up capping her benefits.
This, she said, slashed her Universal Credit claim by up to £463 per month, leaving her short of funds.
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A High Court judge today ruled it was “irrational and unlawful” to penalise those paid every four weeks, instead of every month.
Judge Mr Justice Garnham said: “The earned income calculation is irrational and unlawful in respect of employees paid on a four-weekly basis.”
Ms Pantellerisco was forced to turn to methods such as food banks and school uniform vouchers to help her finances.
She told the Mirror: “I thought the way they were treating me and the way the system is was unfair, so I just thought ‘no, something’s got to be done.”
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The decision made by the judge today follows a similar verdict reached last month on the same issue, where the four-week rule was once again debated.
Four single mothers had told the court their benefits were severely affected after facing similar circumstances – with their pay landing twice in the same month.
Because of this, the Universal Credit system recognised them as being paid twice in the same period and reduced their benefits accordingly.
The women spoke of being driven to food banks and charity as a result of their circumstances.
Thousands of claimants are paid on the same four week basis, meaning the decision is likely to affect many.
Ms Pantellerisco was described by her solicitor as doing everything she could to provide for her family.
Her circumstances appeared to be exacerbated by the intersection between the four week payment rule and the benefits cap.
It is now expected the rule in question will be reconsidered by the government.
Express.co.uk has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions for comment.
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