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30 October 2018Universal Credit - what's wrong with it

Universal Credit Full Service – What’s wrong with it

Universal Credit replaces the following benefits with a single payment:

Income support                                                                         Housing Benefit

Income based Job Seekers Allowance                                      Child Tax Credit

Income related Employment and Support Allowance              Working Tax Credit

 

1. The migration process for those who already claim existing benefits.

Claimants will receive a letter telling them that within 3 months of the date on the letter they must claim UC or all their benefits will stop,  Government agaencies already have all the necessary information and the migration should be done automatically when due.

2. Claimant is not paid calendar monthly but UC is.

Those paid four weekly will have one month each year when they receive two paychecks in the one caledar month assessment period.

Those paid two weekly will have two months each year when they receive three paychecks in the one calendar month assessment period.

Those paid weekly will have four months each year when the receive five pay checks in the one month assessment period.

In every case this may bring earned income to a level that means no UC will be paid for that assessment period. The claim will stop. The following month the claimant will need to reclaim by confirming all their details are correct.

Claimants will lose benefit when there has been no overall increase in their earned income.

If the wrong pay date is reported for example when early payments are made to avoid bank holidays and UC is affected then it is left to the claimant to sort this out with the employer.

3. All claims to be made online

A claimant may have no personal internet access and may not be IT literate. Claimant may have to travel to get access and help. This may not be possible on a daily basis (no public transport or high fares) yet is needed to make sure instructions are followed on time and claimant commitment fulfilled. Otherwise claim will be ended.

4.. Claiming process

1. Set up an email account

2. Set up a universal credit account

3. Complete Claim form

4. Using governement ‘Verify’ confirm ID.

then

11.1 Day one conditionality - As an eligible adult you will be required to register your Find a Job account, create your own e-mail account/address and create a Curriculum Vitae (CV) from the first day of your Universal Credit application. (government web site)

Claimant then needs to phone Job Centre and arrange an appointment. May need to take ID documentation. Claimant will be issued with a 16 digit personal number,

then ongoing (from government website)

In most cases, you will need to complete up to 35 hours work search activity per week in order to receive Universal Credit.

This could include some or all of the following:

  • prepare your CV and tailor it to each job
  • research employers and transport links
  • apply for suitable jobs
  • prepare your CV cover note
  • follow up applications
  • make it easy to be found online
  • search for jobs and set up job alerts online
  • network with friends, family and social media
  • prepare for your interview
  • record your activities to track progress (update and follow instructions in online journal).

Issues

Claim form won’t proceed without a mobile number (enter 11 zeros – advice from Oldham council).

Claim form won’t proceed without a claimant commitment but those in the ESA Support Group (those who are unable to perform work related activity) cannot make one.

Many claimants have difficulty with getting suitable ID which may delay claim and mean longer with no money.

Seven waiting days and a calendar month assessment period mean 5 weeks minimum with no money. For those with difficulties providing evidence this is likely to be a lot longer. Loans up to 100% of first payment to be paid back over 12 months are available but likely to force claimants into debt.

Disabilities are not flagged up on initial page of claimant’s online record. (Advice from NCC is for claimant to repeat this information in all online contacts or it is likely to be forgotten.)

To meet eligibilty requirements daily online access is needed.

5. Bank accounts – Claimants must have a bank acoount when many may only have a Post Office account at present. To open a bank account ID again an issue.

Where the UC claim is made by a couple all money is to be paid into a single bank account. Request can be made for payments to be split but where a claimant is in a coercive, controlling relationship this may put them at risk. This disproportionately disadvantages women.

6. Support will only be paid for 2 children. This will plunge families into poverty.

7.  Rent arrears Increases in rent arrears since the introduction of Universal Credit in an area, which claimants can often take up to a year to repay, have been reported by local authorities, housing associations and landlords. Some private landlords told the NAO they have become reluctant to rent to Universal Credit claimants. In three of the four areas the NAO visited and for which data was available, the use of foodbanks increased more rapidly after Universal Credit full service was rolled out to the area. This agrees with the Trussell Trust’s report showing upsurges of 30% in foodbank use in the six months after Universal Credit rolls out to an area, compared to 12% in non-Universal Credit areas. (National Audit Office 15/6/18)

8. Direct payments to Landlords - When DWP review requests they will decide whether the Claimant is capable of managing a single monthly payment. They will look at outcomes from the money advice offered and whether or not the Claimant himself/herself is financially capable to manage UC without the need for a direct payment for the rent.(RLA landlords asociation 2018). Money advice offered is mainly online.

 9. Prescription Charges – With no paper work claimants have difficulty demonstrating their eligibility for free prescriptions. There is no box to tick for UC on the back of the prescription either.

10. Deductions for old tax credit debt – Many are calculations are wrong (arising in particular out of a private contract HMRC had with Concentrix) and claimants don’t know and aren’t told what they’re for.

11. Free school meals - “Analysis by the Children’s Society has found that more than 1 million children living in poverty would miss out on a free school meal because of the cliff edge.” (Sarah Hodgson MP 6/2/18). Not easy to explain briefly.

Report compiled by

Pam Vassie

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