Independent, tailored support to make an initial claim
Universal Credit is the biggest welfare reform we’ve seen. When it’s fully rolled out, around 7 million households will be on the benefit in a huge variety of situations — those looking for work, those in low income work, and those who are unable to work.
For Universal Credit to be successful it must work for all these different groups of people. There is still work to do for it to achieve this.
People are struggling to complete their claim
We’ve been campaigning about UC for many months — in particular about the challenges people are facing to successfully make a claim and get paid as quickly as possible.
The latest data shows that 1 in 6 people aren’t paid in full on time and this figure is worse for people who get extra amounts in their UC payment for rent, childcare or to recognise their disability or health problem. Often the delays are because people struggle to provide the evidence required to complete their claim.
It’s important to remember that UC payments, like those in the legacy benefit system, are there to help people to cover essential bills like rent or to pay for their weekly food shop. Ensuring people can access this income is crucial.
People need comprehensive and consistent support
With such a big change to the welfare benefits system, and with so many people in so many different situations claiming Universal Credit, it’s vital that adequate support is in place.
Some support exists now — through a scheme known as Universal Support — but this is not consistent across the country and it does not alway provide the help people need to complete their claim. DWP evidence shows that 43% of people said they needed more support making a claim. It also shows that 44% of people have to make multiple attempts to make their UC claim. We know from our evidence that many of the people we help also aren’t aware of the options available to them, such as more frequent payments (only 14% knew), or for the option to have payments split between household members (only 7% knew).
Based on this evidence, we — and others — have been calling for an independent support service that can help people every step of the way.
Through a new and improved support service, announced on Monday, Citizens Advice will be able to help more people with their initial Universal Credit claim — making sure they get the tailored help they need to fully complete the claim. This independent service will support people through this process, including understanding UC and the options they have to make sure the benefit works for them — ready for their first payment.
We will always remain impartial and independent
At Citizens Advice we’ve always provided support to people who have problems with benefits — from JSA to Tax Credits, Housing Benefits, ESA , PIP and now UC. Last year we helped 600,000 people with welfare benefits issues, helping them understand what they are entitled to, navigate the application process — and to challenge Government when they get it wrong. We will continue to do this important work.
We’ve already helped 150,000 people across England and Wales with an issue related to Universal Credit — most commonly about their claim. As the roll out of UC continues, we need resources to ensure we can offer the help people need. The new funding will allow us to provide much-needed new roles locally to do this.
This funding agreement does not stop us from raising problems with Universal Credit publicly and it does not compromise the impartiality or confidentiality of the advice and support we give to people — these are red lines we never cross, including when it comes to funding.
We’ve always said we agree with the aims and principles of Universal Credit — to create a benefit system that is simpler to access and easier for people to understand. Fixing Universal Support is important and very welcome, but UC still has many challenges. Ahead of the Managed Migration regulations and the Budget we will not hold back in sharing our evidence to support the people we are here to help.