William Eichler 23 July 2018

Universal Credit system ‘too complicated’, charity says

Universal Credit claims ‘falter’ due to a complicated process and a lack of support, a charity which supports claimants has found.

The Government’s flagship reform of the welfare system has been criticised for being far too complicated and forcing people into debt.

Citizens Advice has revealed the new system, which reduces six benefits down to a single payment, has left more than a third of people supported by the charity struggling to provide the evidence needed to complete their claim.

Around 48% of those who qualify for extra costs under Universal Credit and are helped by Citizens Advice found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions.

Around 40% found it difficult to provide evidence for housing and 35% found it difficult to provide evidence for childcare.

The charity also discovered that people receiving their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt.

Late payment by the Government meant the chances of claimants being in debt increased by nearly a quarter (23%). They were also 60% more likely to borrow money from a lender.

There are 10 stages to making a Universal Credit claim, many of which are time sensitive. If a deadline is missed, a claim may have to be started again.

A quarter of the claimants helped by Citizens Advice spent more than a week completing their claim because it was too complicated.

‘While Universal Credit is working for the majority of people, our evidence shows a significant minority are struggling to navigate the system,’ said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

‘With people already having to wait five weeks as a matter of course for their first payment, any further delays risk jeopardising people’s financial security.

‘Last year the Government showed it was listening by taking important steps to improve Universal Credit. Those measures are starting to have an impact, but more needs to be done.

‘Top of the Government’s list should be simplifying the process and making sure adequate support is in place so that claims can be completed as quickly as possible.’

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘Universal Credit simplifies an out-of-date, complex system and we welcome Citizens Advice finding that it is working well for the majority of claimants.

‘We continue to listen to feedback and make any necessary improvements during the roll-out with our ‘test and learn’ approach and this report recognises the positive impact of changes we have already made.

‘The vast majority of Universal Credit claimants are paid in full and on time and 100% advance payments can be made available within hours. We also fast track appointments for customers in need.

‘We look forward to working collaboratively with Citizens Advice and others to ensure that the small minority who seek additional help making their claim are able to access it.’

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