• Latest figures show a further 150 errors on Universal Credit claims in Tower Hamlets this year resulting in £335k in overpayments and £215k in underpayments to date.

Speaking last month at a conference on the future of Universal Credit, Mayor John Biggs highlighted the many errors in the system and new figures showing that a further 150 errors on claims had been identified by Tower Hamlets Council since April resulting in £335k in overpayments and £215k in underpayments identified since 2018. Other London boroughs have said this is not uncommon.

Councils are not recognised partners for Universal Credit in the way they are for Housing Benefit and receive no funding to check Universal Credit claims as they are managed by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The government continues to insist it has to be the resident that reports errors with their claim however this “one size fits all” approach is letting down vulnerable residents who may not know how much they are entitled to.

The council has continued to flag errors to DWP on behalf of its residents. Last year it identified 578 errors and since April this year a further 150 have been flagged to DWP. In some cases LBTH Benefits staff have had to refer the DWP to their own regulations so decisions are amended.

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has invested £6.6m into a ‘Tackling Poverty Fund’ and the council works in partnership with the Child Poverty Alliance Group (CPAG) to deliver welfare advice in a local food bank which delivered £230k in income maximisation for residents in its first 5 months.

The Labour Party announced at its annual conference that it would scrap Universal Credit, implement an emergency package of reforms to mitigate some of the worst effects and replace Universal Credit with a new social security system.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “Universal Credit is failing our most vulnerable residents and pushing them into hardship. We are standing up for our residents and offering them support but it’s simply not good enough that these blunders continue. I welcome the Labour Party’s announcement that they will scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a fair social security system, particularly Labour’s plans to lift up to 300,000 children out of poverty by scrapping the two child limit and benefit cap.”

Cllr Rachel Blake, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Planning, Air Quality and Tackling Poverty said: “The continuing errors we are seeing due to Universal Credit show it’s not fit for purpose. It’s impossible for our residents to budget when they are being regularly underpaid or suddenly hit with bill for overpayments. Here in Tower Hamlets we’re using the Mayor’s Tackling Poverty Fund to help advise residents hit by Universal Credit and we’re also working with the Child Poverty Action Group to understand exactly how Universal Credit is hitting the borough and what needs to change for a fair system.”

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