Poverty and Inequality

10.07.17

UC should be paused as system ‘remains beset with problems’

A charity has today called on the government to pause the Universal Credit (UC) roll out after it found that a third of people who had applied for money under the new scheme were waiting more than the six weeks it should usually take to receive the first payment.

Citizens Advice conducted a survey of 800 people who had sought help through UC, which is expected to be claimed by more than half (52%) of all families with children, and six in 10 households where an adult is disabled or has a long-term health condition.

The results showed that just over one in 10 respondents had been waiting over 10 weeks without their first payment – leading to many facing serious financial difficulties.

Shockingly, three in five (57%) of those who had applied for UC were being forced to borrow money while they waited for their much-needed payment, leading families to slip into debt and further into poverty.

A report released with the survey also detailed that many were having serious difficulty with the application process, as almost a third (30%) of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the UC helpline, some reporting that they waited over 30 minutes to get through.

This follows a similar warning made back in April, that many could not claim their benefits as they could not access the online application, and some couldn’t afford to call the telephone helplines to get help with being granted UC.

And at the start of the year, a Glasgow MP blamed UC for exacerbating homelessness and effecting council services in the area.

“UC is already failing too many people, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“Citizens Advice supports the principles of UC, but pushing ahead with roll out while the system remains beset with problems will put thousands more families at financial risk.”

As well as calling for the programme to be halted, Citizens Advice also emphasised that unless the government acts, the challenges raised in the survey will undermine the original goals of UC to offer people security and support to move and progress into work.

“As things stand, too many people are finding UC 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,” Guy added.

“The government needs to pause plans to accelerate the roll out of full service UC this autumn and devote the time and resource needed to tackle the key problems which mean the system is not working.”

Top Image: Rui Vieira and PA Wire

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