Mother-to-be on Universal Credit had benefits slashed to a penny a month

Tom Embury-Dennis
Keeley Sheppard claims she was given no explanation for the sanction: Getty

A mother-to-be has had her Universal Credit benefits cut to just one penny a month.

Keeley Sheppard, who is 29-weeks pregnant, expected to receive £500 per month after moving into her father’s house with her partner Dan Pye.

But after switching to a joint Universal Credit claim, they were told they would only receive a penny.

“We were both on single universal credit claims before," the 20-year-old told The Mirror. "Everything was fine, we went to appointments, did all that stuff.

"We went onto a joint claim because we were moving in together. It wasn't until last month when we logged on to our UC account and found out we were getting paid a penny."

Ms Keeley, from Lechdale, Gloucestershire, is expecting to give birth of her first child by Christmas.

She said she was given no explanation for the sanction and was forced to take out an emergency £300 loan from the Job Centre.

The couple’s Universal Credit payment has now increased to £40 a month, although she said that is still below what they expected.

“In the last month I have been told, because I'm 29 weeks pregnant now, that I can only be sanctioned up to 20 per cent, if I am sanctioned," she said. "But I've been sanctioned pretty much fully."

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work who are struggling with living costs.

Earlier this week, the Government suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons as a vote was passed to pause the roll-out of the new scheme, which has suffered a series of technical problems.

Thousands have received late payments.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson told The Independent: “Only a small minority of Universal Credit claimants are sanctioned. People are given every opportunity to explain why they have failed to meet their agreed commitments before a decision is made.

“Staff were in contact with Ms Sheppard to make sure she was aware of the deduction but they were not aware that she was pregnant. Ms Sheppard was advised she could access a hardship payment – which she did – receiving it on the same day she applied.”