William Eichler 11 September 2017

Universal Credit pushing people into ‘spiral of debt’, charity warns

The expansion of Universal Credit (UC) is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’ because many of its problems have not been solved including the long wait for payments, charity warns.

A new report from Citizens Advice analysed over 50,000 cases where it had helped people with their debt problems and found for those on UC 79% had priority debts, such as rent or council tax, compared to 69% on legacy benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance or Housing Benefit.

It also found two in fvie (41%) had no money available to pay creditors as their monthly spend on essential living costs is more than their income. Typically, according to the report, people on UC only had around £3 a month left to pay creditors.

In light of these findings, which build on a report published in July, Citizens Advice called on the Government to pause the roll-out of UC to ensure no one applying for it waits longer than six weeks for an income, and that anyone who needs it gets a payment within two weeks that they do not need to repay.

‘The roll-out of Universal Credit is a disaster waiting to happen,’ the charity’s chief executive, Gillian Guy, said.

‘While the principles behind Universal Credit are sound, our evidence shows that if the Government continues to take this stubborn approach to the expansion of Universal Credit, it risks pushing thousands of families into a spiral of debt, and placing an even greater strain on public services.

‘People face severe consequences - like visits from bailiffs and eviction - when they can't pay their bills. But Government can help protect these households by taking the simple step of pausing Universal Credit and fixing the underlying problems, so families are less likely to fall into arrears.

‘The Government should also ensure that everyone has access to the support they need to adapt to Universal Credit.’ 

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