Chi Onwurah MP for Newcastle Central has been demanding changes to Universal Credit (UC) to ensure claimants can have the free prescriptions to which they are entitled for over three years now. She has again written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to ask her to sort it out.
“ For over three years now I have received complaints from constituents claiming Universal Credit (UC) who are being sent penalty notices with fines of £100 for prescription charges because the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) isn’t joined up with NHS over Universal Credit
“There is no way of indicating on the form that someone is in receipt of Universal Credit and consequently no check on eligibility for free prescriptions. Either someone pays for a prescription when they shouldn’t, or they tick the wrong box, and are penalised.
“ So the already struggling and often ill UC claimant is being further undermined by unnecessary debt.
Ms Onwurah points out that Pharmacists and GPs are giving advice to tick other benefit boxes. Also many prescriptions are now processed automatically so the UC claimant has no sight of any form and is unaware of action taken by GPs or Pharmacists. Since no DWP arrangement exists with the NHS about UC claims, people are only finding out about the problem when a penalty charge notice is served on them.
UC claimants, GPs and Pharmacists state they have been given no guidance on how UC claimants should receive prescription items free of charge and how to ensure that penalties are not incurred.
Chi is extremely disappointed that this major failing of UC has not been resolved since she raised it in a series of Parliamentary Questions in September 2015. She wants urgent action taken to end this victimisation of UC claimants entitled to free prescriptions and to refund those already incorrectly penalised.
Ms Onwurah welcomed Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn again raising the abhorrent treatment of those claiming UC in Wednesdays’ Prime Minister’s questions. She noted that Mrs May stated her government is listening and will make changes to UC, but clearly this has not happened with regard to prescription entitlement.
Notes for Editors:
- Jeremy Corbyn MP at Prime Minister’s Questions today on Parliament TV (12:06: 48 to 12:07:19): https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/739a1359-e058-49e3-a597-fac0ba3bd93a
- Prime Minister’s response on Parliament TV (12:07:30 to 12:08:13): https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/739a1359-e058-49e3-a597-fac0ba3bd93a
- Chi’s Parliamentary Questions in September 2015 (PQs: 10358, 10360, 10582) and November 2015 (PQs: 14672, 14935, 15688)