DWP 'destroys' Daniel, 74, as Universal Credit cut left him £1.88 a month

Daniel and Esperanza
Married couple Daniel and Esperanza Walsh who were paid £1.80 a month in Universal Credit after a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mistake. -Credit:Karwai Tang

A 74-year-old fell into £3,000 debt after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) cut his Universal Credit to just £1.88 a month. Daniel Walsh, 74, said the DWP has "destroyed" him financially, mentally and physically over the past eight months.

Daniel had a joint Universal Credit claim with wife Esperanza, 48. But issues arose in September 2023 when Esperanza began a Master's course in art therapy.

Before September, the couple received between £439 and £568 a month after deductions from their joint Universal Credit claim. Daniel also received his state pension and Attendance Allowance as he requires a mobility scooter, while Esperanza received Carer's Allowance, The Mirror reports.

The pair knew their Universal Credit claim was going to change when Esperanza began her studies, as you cannot claim Carer's Allowance if you study full time. Like other Master's students, Esperanza also received a £6,000 loan for her course which she used in its entirety - alongside another loan of £3,000 - to pay for her Master's upfront.

She added: "I didn't really have this money at all, it came into my bank account and it was gone soon after, it wasn't savings so we didn't think our Universal Credit claim would be cut by too much."

Daniel and Esperanza
Married couple Daniel and Esperanza Walsh who were paid £1.80 a month in Universal Credit after a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mistake. -Credit:Karwai Tang

However, they did not anticipate just how much the DWP would cut from their claim. In September 2023, the DWP paid the couple just £95.29 in Universal Credit. Over the following months, their Universal Credit payments stayed low at £44,84, £95.29, and £40.79.

In January, the DWP cut their Universal Credit claim to absolutely nothing. This was repeated again in February, and in March the benefits department awarded the pair a measly £1.88. Daniel said: "I couldn't get my head around what was going on, it didn't make sense and a payment of £1.88 just feels insulting."

The pair first flagged the issue in their Universal Credit journal last year and continued to reach out the the DWP for help - but to no avail. Esperanza flagged that Carer's Allowance was still being cut from their claim even though she did not claim it anymore, and she also flagged that their housing costs did not add up and asked for the DWP to check their calculations.

Alongside this, there also seemed to be extra income reported on their claim, when there had been no change in income during this time. Between September 2023 and March 2024, the pair sent upwards of 80 messages requesting help with their claim.

Daniel said: "We've been writing in our journal since September 2023 when all this nonsense started and not one of our questions has been answered. We are both reasonably intelligent, educated people. Honestly, it's crazy that we have been stonewalled by Universal Credit to get any answers to questions we have raised with them."

Daniel and Esperanza Walsh
Married couple Daniel and Esperanza Walsh who were paid £1.80 a month in Universal Credit after a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mistake. -Credit:Karwai Tang

The financial impacts of the DWP's cuts were catastrophic with Daniel and Esperanza unable to pay their rent causing them to fall into arrears worth over £3,000. Esperanza said the pressure of the cost of living crisis, alongside this has been "absolutely detrimental" to their daily life and they have been forced to rely on food banks to feed themselves.

Thankfully, Daniel and Esperanza live in an Almhouse charity property which has saved them from the threat of eviction. Daniel added: "We are in constant communication with Almshouse charity and the administration, and, they have been very understanding and very supportive of us." Esperanza added: "The DWP said they had contacted our landlord but we have been told that this has not been the case, they are efficient so Universal Credit must be lying to us. How do we fight that?"

Due to the significance of Daniel's financial issues, he has been forced to take out a Debt Relief Order which will now remain on his credit file for the next six years. Daniel fears he could die with this "black mark" after spending his entire life working hard to manage his money to build his credit score to the high 890s.

His credit score has now dropped to the low 500s. Daniel arranged the Debt Relief Order with help from the charity Money Wellness. The order will give Daniel breathing space to manage his debts and he continue to receive support from the charity throughout this.

He added: "They have ruined me physically, mentally and financially. I don't want to die because I don't want to leave the mess which is not our making behind for Esperanza to pick up. But, mentally, I don't know if I can do this anymore.

Daniel and Esperanza
Married couple Daniel and Esperanza Walsh who were paid £1.80 a month in Universal Credit after a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mistake. -Credit:Karwai Tang

"I've been put on medication and I have been registered with a crisis team because I've come so close sometimes."

The Mirror reached out to the DWP to find out what had happened with their claim. After reviewing, the DWP confirmed that it had made a mistake with Eperanza's student payment. Instead of deducting 30% off their claim, the DWP deducted 70%. The DWP also said their housing payment was also inaccurate as they did not have the correct details in the system regarding their rent.

The DWP confirmed that between August 2023 and April 2024, they had been underpaid by £1,942.14 and they have now reimbursed this payment. Daniel and Esperanze have now used the entirety of it to cover their rent arrears. Alongside this, the DWP is currently in the process of reassessing the couple's monthly Universal Credit payment.

Daniel and Esperanza are over the moon that their claim is finally being addressed however upon hearing the DWP's explanation, Daniel was angry. He said: "I have had to enter into a Debt Relief Order and ruin my credit reference scores for the next six years due to the incompetence of the DWP, not to mention the deterioration in my mental health and life as a whole."

A DWP spokesperson said: "After reviewing this case, we have reimbursed Mr and Mrs Walsh in full and have apologised to them for the error made."

It comes as the DWP introduced new rules today that means Universal Credit claimants now need to search for more work or increase their existing hours if they work less than 18 hours a week at the National Living Wage.

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