From Advising Communities (now closed):
Our client was EEA national and she has lived in the UK for over 6 years. She has two children - a three year old and aone year old. She has been working mostly continuously in the UK and had breaks only when she was on maternity leave. At the time when we first met her, she was still on maternity leave and was looking for a new job that will be able to accommodate her child care responsibilities.
She was living with a partner but they separated due to domestic violence. She was receiving Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support. However, her Tax Credits stopped because she was asked to prove that she was a single person. While this process was on-going, she was not receiving any money aside from Child Benefit (just about £37 per week) and was told that that she needed to claim Universal Credit. She did not understand the implications of making a claim for Universal credit: that her Housing benefit would stop and that even if her Tax Credits reconsideration request was successful, she would not be able to go back to Tax Credits and other benefits.
She made a claim for Universal credit and waited over a month just to be told that she did not qualify because she was EEA national and was not currently working and did not have right to reside for benefit purposes. The decision makers failed to consider her work history, ifwhether she had acquired permanent residence, or if she may have retained her status as a worker.
We assisted her with request for reconsideration and in the meantime, a decision was made that she qualified for Tax Credits as single person but as she claimed Universal Credit, only a small payment was due to her. She was very tearful and upset because she struggled to understand why she was refused Universal credit, she was frustrated that she will continue to receive no payments until the reconsideration requests was considered and was already living on Child Benefit only and foodbank vouchers.
She had rent arrears, her landlord served her with notice to leave the accommodation she was living in and she feared becoming homeless with her two children.
To make the process of payment of Universal credit quicker (as reconsideration could take a month or more and the outcome was uncertain), she tried to find work and had to leave her children with friends and relatives in order to manage to work.
Her Universal credit was finally paid 4 months after she made the original claim. It covers her housing costs to a limited extent due to the local housing allowance (cap in the maximum amount that can be paid for housing costs), and even with the income from her part-time work, after she pays her bills, contributes to the costs of child care and makes payments towards her rent arrears, she and her children continue to live on very minimal income.