DWP’s own survey catalogues Universal Credit failings

By agency reporter
June 9, 2018

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has called for key cuts to Universal Credit to be reversed following new DWP evidence showing a large number of claimants are struggling to make ends meet many months into their claims. The survey also shows a significant number of claimants had no confidence in their ‘claimant commitment’ – the document setting out what claimants must do to receive universal credit, including work-related requirements. A full fifth of claimants (21 per cent) were unable to submit their claim online mainly due to difficulties using computers or the internet.

In light of the findings, the charity wants cuts in the work allowance (the amount claimants can earn before their universal credit starts to be reduced) to be reversed.

It will also press for the introduction of clear rules to determine what should be expected of claimants, especially those with health conditions, disabilities and caring responsibilities, to ensure that what claimants are required to do is fair and appropriate for individuals’ circumstances.

Key findings from the DWP’s Universal Credit Full Service Survey, published on 7 Jube 2018, include:

Managing money:

  • Around three months into their claim, only just over half of claimants (53 per cent) were keeping up with bills and credit commitments while 44 per cent were falling behind or experiencing real financial difficulties. At eight-nine months into their claim, 57 per cent were keeping up while 40 per cent were falling behind or experiencing real financial difficulty.
  • Eight or nine months into their claim, half of claimants had to obtain additional funds during the three months prior to interview. One third (33 per cent) had received money from family and friends, 13 per cent received an advance from the DWP and 11 per cent gained or extended a bank overdraft. Other sources included charities, payday loans, doorstep lending, credit cards or bank loans.
  • Of claimants receiving a housing element of universal credit, 36 per cent in the first three months of their claim and 37 per cent of those eight or nine months into their claim, were in arrears. Of those in arrears, 65 per cent said they fell into debt after they made their Universal Credit claim.
  • 71 per cent of those in arrears at three months were still in arrears at eight-nine months into their claim. 44 per cent said the amount they owed had got larger (compared with 29 per cent who said it had got smaller and 27 per cent who had caught up)
  • Of those who had claimed back childcare costs through universal credit, four in 10 were dissatisfied with the experience of this process.

 The requirements on claimants:

  • Only 54 per cent believed their claimant commitment took their personal circumstances into account.
  • Only 63 per cent believed their claimant commitment was achievable.
  • Only 55 per cent believed that the claimant commitment would increase their chance of finding work or increase hours or income.
  • Only just over half (52 per cent) said their claimant commitment had been reviewed with their work coach in the last three months (although in universal credit there is an intention to regularly review and update claimant commitments)
  • Only just under half were confident they would find a job or increase their hours or income within the following three months.

 Online experience:

  • 21 per cent were unable to submit their claim online mainly due to difficulties using computers or the internet.

Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said: “The DWP’s own survey findings show universal credit is a dismal failure for a large number of people who rely on it. It is clear that there are still many people who months into their claim, are being left with too little to live on and who face work-related requirements that don’t take their circumstances into account. It is also all too apparent that an online-only system cannot work for everyone. People should have the opportunity to claim their entitlements in face-to-face settings, if they need it.

“Universal Credit once had strong poverty-reducing potential but big funding reductions have meant it is failing to achieve its original aims. Many of its design faults have been allowed to go uncorrected. Unless funding for universal credit is restored and its design re-visited, this once flagship benefit will continue to fail.”

* Read the report of Universal Credit Full Service Survey here

* Child Poverty Action Group http://www.cpag.org.uk/

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