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Citizens Advice calls for pause of Universal Credit roll-out in GB

Citizens Advice has renewed its calls for a pause in the roll-out of Universal Credit in Great Britain, citing evidence that the new benefit is causing increased debts, rent arrears and difficulty in meeting core household expenses.

Universal Credit in Great Britain

Universal Credit has been gradually rolling out in Great Britain since 2014. Currently, it is being introduced in 5 new areas per month; however, from October the government plan to increase this to 50 new areas per month.

Citizens Advice claims that this increased expansion of the benefit risks pushing thousands of families into debt, and increasing strain on public services. In their report, analysis is carried out of 50,000 debt cases, demonstrating differences in the experiences of Universal Credit and “legacy benefit” claimants:

  • 26% of Citizens Advice claimants on Universal Credit needed help with debts – compared to 19% of those on legacy benefits.
  • 79% of clients who were UC claimants had priority debts, compared to 69% of legacy benefit clients.
  • 41% of Citizens Advice clients on Universal Credit had no spare income to pay creditors – compared to 33% of those on legacy benefits.

The report also identifies issues relating to the 6 week waiting period; poor administration; difficulty budgeting in the new monthly context; difficulties with bank accounts which can receive UC payments; and deductions from UC for recovery of debts and overpayments.

Due to these issues, Citizens Advice are calling for Universal Credit to be paused to address these issues and ensure that:

  • No-one is waiting more than 6 weeks for their first payment.
  • Those who need it can get a payment within 2 weeks, which they do not need to pay back.
  • People have access to support to help them adapt to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit in Northern Ireland

Universal Credit is first introduced in Northern Ireland, for new claimants and “natural migrations”, in Limavady area from Wednesday 27th September. Between this point and September 2018, UC will be introduced for new claimants and natural migrations across Northern Ireland. Following this, between July 2019 and March 2022 any remaining claimants of “legacy benefits” will be actively transferred to Universal Credit, in a process known as “managed migration.”

Universal Credit Training

Housing Rights are offering training on Universal Credit housing costs in Derry on 27th September, and in Belfast on 2nd October. We also have a free 1-hour online training session which provides on overview of Welfare Reform, covering topics including Universal Credit, the Benefit Cap and the bedroom tax. Register for free to view this training.

Tagged In

Benefits, Research, Welfare Reform, Policy

Author

Stephen Orme