EXCLUSIVE: Lawyers for 34-year-old Charmaine Parkin will argue the benefit discriminates against the self-employed – thanks to a little-known catch called the Minimum Income Floor
A mum is launching a High Court fight against Universal Credit after telling how it left her with just £8.98 for a month. Charmaine Parkin says the six-in-one benefit discriminates against self-employed people like her after she was forced to feed kids Arthur, 11, and Esme, eight, through food banks.
The 34-year-old, an actor for more than a decade, struggled to find work after she moved to Hove, East Sussex. But she said the real problems started when she split from her partner in October 2017 – triggering a claim for Universal Credit.
Charmaine was hit by the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF) – which bans self-employed people from claiming more benefits than if they were on minimum wage. It meant she would have been £393 a month better off if she quit her career and moved onto the equivalent of jobseekers’ allowance, her lawyers say.
And if she had paid her landlord last November, even after her earnings she would have had £8.98 left to pay for a month’s food, travel, bills and council tax, she said.
Now her lawyers Leigh Day are applying to bring a judicial review against the MIF, which they argue is “unjustified discrimination” and “irrational”.
They have already exchanged pre-action letters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and intend to issue a claim in court in the coming weeks which, if accepted by a judge, would be granted a full High Court hearing next year.
“It’s scary,” said Charmaine, who is behind on rent and owes her parents hundreds of pounds.
“I don’t know how anyone less strong than me could cope with what I’ve gone through. I have had to swallow my pride a lot.” Legal papers show Charmaine’s UC payment was £926 in November 2017 after she had to pay back an advance loan out of her benefits. That was less than her £1,095-a-month rent, legal papers show. The MIF is meant to stop the state propping up failing entrepreneurs. But critics argue it leaves self-employed strivers with no choice but to give up.
Charmaine’s solicitor Tessa Gregory said: “According to the government Universal Credit is supposed to ‘make work pay’.
“However, the MIF system for the self-employed has left my client feeling like there is no other option but to give up work.
“This is another flaw in the Universal Credit system which is leaving people across the country worse off and turning to charities and food banks just to make ends meet.” October’s Budget extended help by making people exempt from the MIF for the first year after they move onto UC. But Charmaine, who has worked in theatre since she graduated from university in 2005, said that was “absolutely not long enough”.
Sign our Universal Credit petition
The Mirror are demanding a halt to the expansion of Universal Credit and for a review to take place.
We say there are three options:
- Redesign UC to be fit for purpose
- Axe it in favour of the old system if UC is unfixable
- Introduce a brand new system
Sign our petition to stop the rollout of Universal Credit across Britain and to replace it with a fairer system by signing our petition.
“I thought Universal Credit could give me financial stability, help me to budget and settle in,” she said.
“I was very wrong. The Universal Credit system has left me worse off than if I was unemployed, has caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety, and has left me seriously considering giving up my work.”
Asked why she didn’t give up and apply for work in a shop, Charmaine said: “I’m not someone who’s going to sit down and give up on everything because the system’s not right. “How can I give up everything since 2005? Everything I’ve worked for?”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are unable to comment on an ongoing legal case.
“Universal Credit strikes the balance between supporting entrepreneurship and being fair to the taxpayer by helping self-employed people during the first year while they establish their business.”
- More than 50,000 people have signed the Mirror’s petition to halt the rollout of Universal Credit. Join them at mirror.co.uk/stopuniversalcredit.