Sign the petition here:
We are adding our voice to a growing body of evidence that Universal Credit is causing financial distress, and ask for the further roll out of Universal credit to be paused until existing problems with it are fixed;
Our principal concerns are;
*more than one in three people are waiting in excess of 6 weeks to receive any income, and 11 per cent are waiting more than 10 weeks
*rent arrears among Universal Credit claimants are rising.
*clients on universal credit are nearly one and a half times as likely to seek advice on debt issues compared to those on other benefits.
*foodbanks in areas of full universal credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85 per cent average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64 per cent.
Why is this important?
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said: “Universal Credit is already failing too many people, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet. Citizens Advice supports the principles of Universal Credit, but pushing ahead with roll out while the system remains beset with problems will put thousands more families at financial risk.
“The current flaws with the system also undermine the very reasons Universal Credit was introduced: to simplify the benefits system and make sure every hour of work pays. As things stand, too many people are finding Universal Credit very complicated, and problems such as long wait for payments or difficulties getting help with an application mean they are less able to focus on getting into work or increasing their hours.”
“The government needs to pause plans to accelerate the roll out of full service Universal Credit this Autumn and devote the time and resource needed to tackle the key problems which mean the system is not working.”
Based on data from a representative survey of people seeking advice in universal credit full service areas as of May 2017, Citizens Advice highlights that –
More than one in three people are waiting in excess of 6 weeks to receive any income, and 11 per cent are waiting more than 10 weeks;.
30 per cent of people have made 10 or more calls to the helpline to sort out their claim at a cost of up to 55p per minute, and often have to wait over 30 minutes to get through;
40 per cent reported they were not aware they could get an advance payment to help with the initial waiting period for their first payment, and more than half borrowed money whilst waiting; and
clients on universal credit are nearly one and a half times as likely to seek advice on debt issues compared to those on other benefits.
Solving problems in the practical operation of universal credit must be an ‘urgent priority’ in the new Parliament, the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field has said.
Mr Field highlights that, while many respondents supported in principle the objectives of universal credit, there was a near unanimous set of concerns about its implementation, including –
claimants waiting 12 weeks or more for their first payment, resulting in hardship and distress;
vulnerable claimants struggling to adapt to receiving universal credit as a single monthly payment;
the seven waiting days at the start of a claim, for which claimants receive no benefit, adding to claimants’ financial difficulty;
rent arrears amongst universal credit claimants rising;
poor communications between landlords, support organisations and the Department where universal credit ‘full service’ is operating; and
universal credit inadequately supporting claimants in emergency temporary accommodation.
Referrals to food banks have increased by more than 16 per cent in universal credit full service areas, according to a new report from the Trussell Trust.
the Trussell Trust highlights that, between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, it provided 1,183,954 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, of which 436,938 went to children. Other key findings include –
foodbanks in areas of full universal credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85 per cent average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64 per cent;
the effect of a 6+ week waiting period for a first universal credit payment can be serious, leading to foodbank referrals, debt, mental health issues, rent arrears and eviction, and these effects can last even after people receive their universal credit payments, as bills and debts pile up;
people in insecure or seasonal work are particularly affected, suggesting the work incentives in universal credit are not yet helping everyone; and
navigating the online system can be difficult for people struggling with computers or unable to afford telephone helplines – in some cases, the system does not register people’s claims correctly, invalidating it.