Citizens Advice North Tyneside calls for government to fix Universal Credit before it fully rolls out in North Tyneside
Citizens Advice North Tyneside is warning that Universal Credit is putting people’s financial security at risk, as they wait six weeks or more, for their first payment.
Many people have already turned to Citizens Advice North Tyneside for help with “live service” Universal Credit, a temporary version of the benefit available to people in the area with straightforward claims.
The charity says the numbers struggling will grow rapidly from February 2018, when “full service” arrives, meaning anyone who would previously have claimed one of the old benefits – such as tax credits or housing benefit- must apply for Universal Credit.
By 2022 Universal Credit will affect 26,500 households across North Tyneside.
Across the country 1 in 4 (28%) working age households will be claiming Universal Credit, more than half of which (54%) will be in employment. The benefit will also be claimed by more than half (52%) of all families with children in the UK and 6 in 10 (58%) households where an adult is disabled or has a long-term health condition.
In a major new report – Delivering on Universal Credit – national Citizens Advice has revealed 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.
As part of the new study, national Citizens Advice surveyed 800 people who sought help with Universal Credit in areas where there is full service.
- 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 new online application process. These range from difficulties using a computer, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim, to failures with the website.
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.
The rollout of Universal Credit is set to speed up significantly in October this year. Citizens Advice North Tyneside is calling on the government to pause this acceleration and use the time to fix key problems with Universal Credit, before thousands more people are brought into the system.