Since lockdown in March, we have seen a 22% increase in the number of our customers who are claiming Universal Credit with more than 5,000 on the new streamlined benefit.
We know, from research conducted with our customers last year, that moving onto UC has a devastating impact on their finances, with many pushed further into debt.
More than 60% of customers were worse off financially after moving on to UC and were finding it harder to keep up with household bills. Just over 40% had gone further into debt. And most worrying of all, more than half demonstrated one of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s indicators of destitution, with many of those having had fewer than two meals a day.
We are calling on the Government to make the following changes to the UC process to alleviate the impact on customers transitioning on to UC:
- End the five-week wait for the first payment. We believe this is a fundamental flaw in the process, leading to claimants building up significant rent arrears which can take up to three years for them to clear, as well as other debts.
- Enable claimants to choose to have their housing element to be paid directly to their landlord from the beginning of a claim. We believe that customers should have the choice over who the housing element of UC is paid to. Some customers, who prefer to manage their own budget and finances, will want to have it paid directly to them while others, who struggle to budget, may prefer the housing element to go straight to their landlord to avoid accumulating rent arrears.
- Increase funding for support and advice for UC claimants to help them through the process. This could include:
- More information at the beginning of the process to help them understand what UC is and how the claim process will work
- Help to get online and to make a claim
- More frequent updates about the progress of their application.
To find out more about our campaign for reform of the Universal Credit process, please contact Lucy Dixon, Public Affairs Manager, at email@example.com