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Poor mums are being denied free milk for their babies under new benefit Universal Credit


21 November 2017
Mirror

Poor parents are being denied free milk for their babies when they move on to Universal Credit, stark evidence has revealed.

The all-in-one benefit leaves children at risk of being "without food" after glitches meant £3.10-a-week vouchers were withdrawn for weeks.

'Healthy Start' vouchers are supposed to go to the poorest benefit claimants to ensure their children do not go hungry.

Yet the scheme's computer system still doesn't recognise the "full service" version of Universal Credit, the Halton Housing Trust said.

That means parents who move onto the benefit are having their vouchers stopped according to Halton, which manages 7,000 homes in Cheshire.

To make matters worse, the claimants are then allegedly given no notification that they need to reapply.

And the only way to get signed up is to file a printed paper application with the full Universal Credit award - which only arrives six weeks or so after joining the benefit.

Halton wrote in evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee: "This is a further example of the limited preparation and testing of the wider impact of UC Full Service.

"We are concerned that some of the most vulnerable children we deal with as a landlord are increasingly at risk of being left without food."

Turning to the benefit overall, the Trust added: "We have been so concerned in a number of cases that we have raised suicide alerts with local GPs."

The revelation adds pressure to Theresa May, who is expected to authorise a U-turn on Universal Credit in tomorrow's Budget.

She has faced huge pressure to reduce the six-week wait people are forced to endure before getting their first payment.

Committee chairman Frank Field, a Labour MP, said: "The six-week wait for Universal Credit is horrific enough for hard-up families.

"But here we are introduced to the fresh horror of vulnerable parents being unable to feed their babies.

"The DWP’s assault course of confusing forms, complicated processes and complex rules around Universal Credit is pushing families to the brink of destitution."

The £3.10-a-week vouchers can be spent on milk, baby formula, and fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables.

They are available to people on a range of low-income benefits if they are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four.

Those with a child under one get double the number of vouchers.

In October the government said 5,265 people on Universal Credit were getting Healthy Start vouchers.

Although not all people on Universal Credit can get the vouchers, this is still under 1% of the 630,000 now claiming the benefit.

Healthy Start is run by the Department of Health and Universal Credit is run by the Department for Work and Pensions.

A DWP spokesman said: “Healthy Start Vouchers are available to eligible parents on Universal Credit and there are arrangements in place so they can get the support they need.”

Dan Bloom, Daily Mirror


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