Dream of teaching “punished” by the reduction of universal credit


Lindsey-Jane Smith with her five year old daughter Olivia

A MOTHER says she is being unfairly punished for studying after her universal credit was cut by £ 200 per month when she started a teaching class.

Lindsey-Jane Smith has discovered that the payments she relied on to feed her daughter were cut after she started training to be an elementary school teacher last month.

The Department of Work and Pensions made the deduction because it views Ms Smith’s student loan as income, despite the fact that it will need to be repaid.

Mrs. Smith, who created a online petition which amassed some 7,000 signatures, said people trying to train for a new career were penalized by a “flawed system”.

The 29-year-old added: “If I had known what I was getting us into, I would never have started the course.

“Over 50 people texted me and told me they were in the same situation and were considering dropping out of their classes. People should be rewarded for trying to improve and support themselves, not punished.

“The government wants to put everyone back to work, but having any old job will not cut it.

For a young family earning minimum wage they will still need universal credit, whereas if I can graduate I will be completely out of credit in a few years.

Ms Smith, who grew up in Camden Square in Camden Town and then moved to Elm Village, was struck by tragedy earlier this year when the father of her child passed away suddenly. She has remained the sole provider of her five-year-old and is content with £ 500 a month after her rent.

She said the cut in her benefits was “the difference between what meals I can cook for the week,” adding, “I have to buy cheaper food, which isn’t always the healthiest. It’s not being able to get clothes for my child when she needs them.

“If you’re not on Universal Credit, figuring out how it works is really confusing, but I got more Universal Credit when I was working and making money than now when I wasn’t earning anything.

“The system is so broken. There are the same rules for everyone, and students in particular are treated badly.

She said: “I would like them to re-evaluate the way they value student income and make it easier to return to school, without penalizing people by making it so difficult financially.”

When Ms Smith decided to start her class, she tried to research how this would affect her universal credit, but said no information was available.

“Because of Covid, you can’t just walk into a job center – it’s heavily based online now,” she said.

“Even when someone finally called me, they couldn’t give me some math on how my money would be calculated. He said to me in June: “Just wait until October and see what happens.” Unless you know exactly what you are looking for, you will never be able to find it.

Universal credit payments will rise for nearly two million working families, Rishi Sunak said yesterday (Wednesday) in a budget shift.

The Chancellor has confirmed a reduction in the degressivity rate – the amount of universal credit that is taken out for every pound an applicant earns through work – from 63p to 55p.

The change to £ 2 billion a year means that claimants for work allowances will keep 45 pence out of every £ 1 they earn, instead of 37 pence.

But the £ 20-a-week reduction is not being waived, meaning more than half of universal credit applicants – including those who can’t work due to illness – won’t see a dime more.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Student loans are classified as income when it comes to determining universal credit entitlement. We have been in contact with Miss Smith to explain.

Link to the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se-coffey-mp-change-the-way-universal-credit-assess-student- Income? Recruiter = 100118220 & utm_source = share_petition & utm_campaign = share_for_starters_page & utm_medium = whatsapp & utm_content = washarecopy_31023377_en-GB% 3A7 & recruited_by_id = a220c960-e2e0-11e3-b9bdf-a22ec

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