Rollout should stop till improvements made

The rollout of Universal Credit should be delayed until the problems with processing are sorted out, says NFA Policy Director Chloe Fletcher.

We think the resources going into the processing of the claims, the training of the staff, we think that needs to continue to improve in order to get these things working as quickly as possible.

We would also like to see the end of that seven day wait because what we are seeing is that those people who are going onto Universal Credit are those in and out of work quite often, in low paid jobs before they become unemployed or with other issues going on, so they aren’t in a position to have savings to get them through that week wait for the claim to start.

We think that extra week to wait is making their financial situation much worse. It may be okay for those who have been in proper work for a long time and maybe have some savings in the bank to get through that time.

Where you are talking about people for who this is a safety net, they just haven’t got those resources to use and it means they literally have no money.

So we see that as unnecessary pressure on families. Maybe DWP could do it as a means-tested thing but they have to realise that some people are in a tight spot financially before they go onto Universal Credit and this is supposed to be the safety net that is helping them, not making those financial difficulties worse.

We have had discussions with DWP and we know they are trying to improve their services so universal credit claims are processed quickly and accurately as soon as they come in so the money gets to the claimant as soon as possible.

It also needs to be the right money as we have found that often, mistakes are made and they are not getting the money they should be getting. It is being wrongly assessed and then their claim takes a lot of time and effort to get put right again.

If they could continue that improvement, that would be good. I would tell them that until they have done that, they shouldn’t keep on with the roll out as they are doing so they can take stock and get that process right before you start rolling that out further and including more people in this problem.

We think there was a big problem over the summer in processing UC applications and getting those right.

The DWP have told us they have recognised the problem and have put improvements in place. What we would like to see is the evidence these improvements have made a difference before they roll out to more people.


Long term solutions

There needs to be continued communication between us, the DWP and landlords.

The Trusted Partner pilot is where a landlord is allowed to apply for alternative payment arrangements on behalf of their tenant.

For example if the claimant was already in arrears, the landlord could say it doesn’t make sense to get them into more arrears, so we will apply for this money until those arrears are cleared.

During that time, we can support that tenant to get them up to speed on monthly budgeting, getting on with any other financial issues they may have and then we can get them onto managing their own UC.

We have seen the pilots going quite well. One of the things that has come out of our analysis is that although 63% of those UC claimants in arrears were in arrears before that, only 44% are on the alternative payment arrangements.

Maybe if we could do more work with this Trusted Partner scheme and get it rolled out more quickly, more landlords would be able to identify the need and stop it from getting worse.

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