Taxing time for families on Universal Credit

EXCLUSIVE BY TOBY PORTER toby@slpmedia.co.uk

A mum and her daughter went all the way to Downing Street last Wednesday to plead for crucial income they believe they will lose under new benefits rules.

Kathleen Max-Lino and her daughter Zoey, from Peckham, stand to lose £33 a week – or almost 12 per cent of their benefits under Universal Credit (UC).

The pair and another affected mum, Marie Collins, from Battersea, handed in a petition from thousands of parents, co-ordinated by charity Contact, demanding disabled children also be protected from the impact of UC.

Marie is likely to lose double, or £66 a week.

Kathleen said: “Life is very difficult already. “The cuts will make things even tighter. I heard about the possibility of the changes last year through Contact.

We are already feeling the pinch. “It was very disappointing to say the least because her challenges will not go away, however much the Government might wish they would.”

Zoey, aged 10, has been on medication since she was three months old for sickle cell disease, allergies and anxiety.

She goes to King’s College Hospital in Camberwell every three months for blood tests and scans.

Until now she has had to take a taxi because of her fear of buses.

Sickle cell patients suffer limited mobility because of pains in their legs, headaches, chest pains and much higher incidence of strokes.

The pupil of St Mary Magdalene CofE Primary School in Brayards Road, Peckham is on painkillers more than half the week to enable her to function.

She has to be driven to school because she often wakes up in pain and with a fever.

UC was rolled out across the country last week, with some getting transitional payments to cover losses – but Contact say families like the Max-Linos will not be exempt from cuts eventually, unlike adult individuals with disabilities.

Kathleen, who also has a 14-year-old daughter plus another disabled daughter, aged 28, living two miles away, added: “Zoey has a very bad nut allergy so her food is expensive.

You cannot cut corners on that because it is her life which is at stake.

“She goes through a lot of pain on buses which brings on her anxiety which just makes it worse.

“So many people will now be going through this. “I was in denial and did not accept how life would be for Zoey for a long time. But the sickle cell nurse has educated me.

Being a carer is not easy for anyone. “I can only afford one or two presents for her at Christmas. I start saving for that in October.

For her last birthday, we had 10 friends round to our house for a party, but that meant there was no money for presents.”

Kathleen, a former nursery teacher, had to give up her job after Zoey was born.

Every week she gets about £170 in child tax credits, £62 in carers’ allowance and £40 income support, making £272 in total.

Marie who has two boys aged six and seven who have ADHD and autism, said: “I am in a Universal Credit area and have been told that if I move onto the new benefit I will lose £67 each week or £3,500 a year, because of cuts to disability payments for the boys.

Things are a struggle anyhow, so this would be a nightmare.

It seems unfair that families who already have lots to deal with raising our children who have additional needs are being made to struggle even more.”

At the beginning of June, Work & Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey announced a package of changes to Universal Credit to protect disabled adults who are facing cuts in payments when moving onto Universal Credit.

Contact is disappointed that disabled children and their families will not get the same protection.

Una Summerson, Head of Policy at Contact, said: “It doesn’t make sense that disabled adults get protections against Universal Credit cuts, but not disabled children who face the same extra costs.

More than 5,000 families with disabled children have come together to sign this petition.

We are calling on the Government to urgently take action to protect families with disabled children who are facing cuts to disability payments under Universal Credit.”

The latest proposals mean the only protected category is disabled children on the highest rate of the Disability Living Allowance and those who are registered blind.

A DWP spokesman said:“The Government has made a commitment that anyone moving onto Universal Credit, without a change of circumstance, will have their existing benefit entitlement safeguarded.”


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