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Charity warns Universal Credit claims process too complicated

Claims under the Government’s controversial Universal Credit programme are faltering because the application process is too complicated, a charity has warned.

Citizens Advice has warned more than a third of people helped by them struggle to provide the evidence needed to complete their Universal Credit claim.

And for the people helped who qualify for extra costs under Universal Credit, around half (48%) found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions and 40% found found it difficult to provide evidence for housing.

The charity also found that people receiving their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt, or falling into it. 

When people didn’t receive their first Universal Credit payment on time, their chances of being in debt increased by a quarter (23%). They were also 60% more likely to borrow money from a lender to help tide them over.

According to the charity, there are 10 stages to making a Universal Credit claim, many of which are time sensitive. 

If a deadline is missed, a claim may have to be started again. 

Some people are finding the process so complex that one in four people who were helped by Citizens Advice spent more than a week completing their claim.

The charity has called on the Government to introduce an automatic payment for those who don’t get paid on time to help cover their immediate costs.

Universal Credit programme has been criticised by many and last month, the National Audit Office published a report, which claimed it may never deliver value for money.

Citizens Advice’s chief executive, Gillian Guy, said while the system is working for the majority of people, its evidence shows a ‘significant minority are struggling to navigate the system’. 

‘With people already having to wait five weeks as a matter of course for their first payment, any further delays risk jeopardising people’s financial security,’ added Ms Guy.

‘Last year the government showed it was listening by taking important steps to improve Universal Credit. Those measures are starting to have an impact, but more needs to be done. Top of the Government’s list should be simplifying the process and making sure adequate support is in place so that claims can be completed as quickly as possible.’

New Start recently visited Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank, who have attributed a 100% rise in visitors to the rollout of Universal Credit. Read the report here.

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