In March 2017, Depaul UK made a submission to the Work and Pensions Committee Enquiry into Universal Credit.
Depaul applauded the Committee for reopening its inquiry into Universal Credit (UC), but expressed concerns that UC may not provide the adequate, reliable benefits paid in an appropriate manner that they need to keep a roof over their heads and meet their basic needs.
Depaul also acknowledged that UC could bring welcome simplification to the benefit system and help to prepare people to enter the world of work. These potential positives are, however, Depaul UK expressed in the submission, undermined by severe problems with the delivery of the benefit.
The key points and reccomendations from the submission are:
- Young homeless people who Depaul works with have to wait over a month for their first payment, and longer if there is a complication with their claim. As the case studies below show, this puts young people in arrears and sometimes leaves them reliant on food banks.
- People who are homeless or living in supported accommodation should be added to the list of waiting days exemptions.
- Some Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff setting up UC claims appear unaware of legislation that requires housing costs to be paid through Housing Benefit for UC claimants in supported accommodation. The DWP should ensure that staff who need to be are aware of this legislation.
- Debts accrued while claiming UC are making it harder for young people in Depaul’s projects to move on into independent accommodation and are leaving them with very low disposable incomes.
- As more people claim UC, the additional support that residents in supported accommodation require and the potential for increased rent arrears may have more of an impact on the resources of charities that provide supported accommodation services.
- As far as we are aware, few of the young people Depaul works with who would benefit from Universal Support are accessing it. They are eligible but are not being offered Universal Support by DWP or local authorities.
- In our experience there is little budgeting support available through Universal Support that is appropriate for people with poor basic skills or restricted access to the internet.
- Depaul’s staff are having to spend substantial amounts of their time supporting people on UC. The DWP and local authorities should ensure that sufficient, appropriate budgeting support is available as the number of people claiming UC increases. They should work with other agencies, including supported accommodation providers, to make this support available.
- In some cases alternative payment arrangements have been put in place after Depaul staff have requested them on behalf of young people. There are many young people Depaul works with who, according to Government guidance, are highly likely to need alternative payment arrangements but do not have them in place.
- The DWP could facilitate greater payment process flexibility by ensuring alternative payment arrangements are applied as Government guidance states they should be. This could be achieved by better publicising alternative payment arrangements to claimants and other agencies.
Read the full Universal Credit Inquiry Submission here.