07 Jul 2017 | Posted In Money advice news

MALG member Citizens Advice says the rollout of Universal Credit should be paused until significant problems with it are fixed in a major new report – Delivering on Universal Credit.

It reveals that the requirement to wait for six weeks to receive any payment means people face serious financial insecurity, with many being forced into debt. The research also identifies a wide range of administrative challenges, including problems with the online system and long waits to get help over the phone, which can make the initial six week wait even longer.

It finds:

  • Over a third (39%) of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment.

  • Just over 1 in 10 (11%) are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit.

  • 3 in 5 (57%) are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

The report also reveals that people are having problems with the application process. These range from difficulties using a computer or with the online system, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim.

And when things go wrong the research shows people are not able to get the help they need: nearly a third (30%) of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, often having to wait over 30 minutes to get through.

Citizens Advice highlights that, unless addressed, these challenges will undermine the goals of Universal Credit, to simplify the benefits system and offer people the security and support they need to move into and progress in work. It makes a range of recommendations to fix Universal Credit before it is rolled out more widely:

-Reduce how long people have to wait for their first payment

  • Remove the 7 waiting days at the start of a claim, to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their first payment.

  • Make sure everyone moving to Universal Credit is told they can get an Advance Payment to help them while they wait for their first payment.

-Improve the support available to people so they can make ends meet

  • Introduce an online system so people can book their initial Jobcentre appointments online rather than having to call the Universal Credit helpline.

  • Make the Universal Credit helpline free of charge, at least until the roll out is complete.

  • Allow people to adjust to Universal Credit by offering everyone options in how they would like the benefit to be paid.

  • Put in place a comprehensive support package before Universal Credit roll-out accelerates, to make sure people get advice to manage their money and deal with any complications in the application process.

Read more here.

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