CAP clients’ experiences of Universal Credit so far
With one million people already claiming Universal Credit and another seven million still to transition, now is a key time to check in with these early claimants. This series of papers explores the problems and hardship experienced by claimants and highlights areas where policymakers' attention is needed. The roll-out is a huge task and there have been changes made to improve the transition for many people (see CAP's policy note here), but there is more to do. Download the papers below to read about the impact that claiming Universal Credit has had on people across the UK.
- Digital exclusion is a significant challenge, with access as well as capability a key issue.
- Waiting for payments to start causes financial hardship and emotional distress.
- There is considerable vulnerability amongst early Universal Credit claimants.
'I had nothing. I relied on my brother, my sister, my neighbours. Because you don't get anything, and I mean nothing at all. So there's no rent being paid, there's no Council Tax being paid, there's no money for shopping, gas, electric, nothing…. The worst one was the rent, because it meant five weeks rent arrears building up.'
- Deductions to repay advances are unaffordable
- The amount deducted for other debts causes hardship
- Claimants find it difficult to reduce deductions to affordable levels
- Paying rent top-ups further exacerbates financial difficulty
'I rang up Universal Credit and said, 'look, obviously it's your money and it's got to come back, and I understand it was a loan, but you're taking it at a rate I really can't afford... There was just a 'computer says no' on that one. The computer calculates what you can afford and that was it on that one.'
- Claimants continue to struggle financially once their payments start.
- Budgeting is a challenge for some and the help offered needs to better understand their needs.
- Where paying rent is a problem, Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) take too long to put in place.
- Claimants in work need more help to cope with low and fluctuating incomes.
‘I work 22 hours a week and I find it very difficult to budget because my Universal Credit payment fluctuates so much. It’s never what they say it’s going to be. I look at my online account and it shows a figure but you can’t rely on it. It can be a big change, like £300.’
Download a summary of the key challenges identified in the full Checking in series here
The Checking in series uses case studies and findings from semi-structured interviews conducted in July and August 2018 to provide an illustration of the experiences of early Universal Credit claimants across the UK. The interview participants were from a range of locations and their age spread was consistent with that of current Universal Credit claimants as a whole. The length of time that they had been in receipt of Universal Credit ranged from three months to two and a half years.
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