Local Citizens Advice Offices in the North-East (Newcastle, Northumberland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham) have conducted joint research into the impact on claimants of the 5-week wait for Universal Credit. This research examined the barriers claimants had in making a claim for Universal Credit and how they paid for their essential bills during the 5-week wait for their initial payment. The full report can be found here - Impact of Claiming Universal Credit
A summary of this report can be found here - Summary Report
Universal Credit offers a vital source of income for people to pay for their essential living costs during their time of need. However, the 5-week for the first Universal Credit payment risks undermining its key aims by putting people’s finances at risk. Our research has shown that there is still significant barriers for people claiming Universal Credit, largely due to a lack of digital skills and access to digital devices to maintain their claim. Significant numbers of clients are reliant on support without that provided through Universal Credit itself, such as the Advance Payment, instead relying on charitable support, friends and family or falling into arrears with their essential bills.
The research has also drawn attention to the difficulty those migrating from ‘legacy’ benefits in particular face. They were more likely to require additional support and fall behind on their essential bills than those making a new claim for benefit. Based on this evidence, we recommend a number of additional changes, support and greater flexibility to the Universal Credit system to help solve the issues highlighted in this report. They will also decrease the financial risk for claimants going through the 5-week wait for their first payment and beyond.
1. Additional Support in Making a Claim
Through the evidence gathered for this report, and the “Help to Claim” service as a whole, it is clear claimants require additional support in making and managing a claim for Universal Credit, we therefore recommend:
2. Ensuring greater flexibility and money within Universal Credit
Our evidence further highlights the hardship caused by the 5-week wait for claimants to receive their first Universal Credit payment, particularly for those migrating from ‘legacy’ benefits. In order to alleviate this, we recommend: