Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Food Banks’ Category

Scottish Unions call for end to Universal Credit and for a “radical welfare system to replace it.”

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Does Universal Credit Offer a Greater Joy!

Scottish TUC Conference (Morning Star) – thanks Ken.

Unions should campaign for a radical welfare system to replace universal credit, delegates hear

Note

There are a number of motions about replacing Universal Credit making their way through the Labour Party policy making structure and the TUC (Ipswich Labour Party and Ipswich Trades Council have submitted one).

UNIONS should campaign not just for the scrapping of universal credit (UC) but draw up a radical welfare system to replace it, Scottish TUC delegates heard today.

A motion proposed by Edinburgh Trades Union Council called for the STUC to campaign for the replacement of UC as soon as possible with a system free from sanctions, outsourcing and benefits caps.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Public & Commercial Services (PCS) union delegate Steve West described UC as “a conscious strategy to demonise benefits claimants.”

He condemned the increased foodbank use, “cruel” assessments and outsourcing to the private sector that results from the system.

But Mr West emphasised that a replacement should not simply constitute a return to old benefits, which he said had resulted in many of the same problems before they were combined to form UC.

“The people of Scotland deserve a far better social security system than we already have, and the trade union movement can play an important role in making sure that happens,” he said.

PCS acting president Fran Heathcote told congress that 40 per cent of those responsible for administering UC are also in receipt of the benefit.

She accused the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) of adopting a bunker mentality and refusing to address any of the problems raised by claimants and unions.

Ms Heathcote called for “a system that our members can take pride in delivering.”

Congress also heard from Unison delegate Helen Duddy, who gave a personal account of her granddaughter’s difficult experience with UC bureaucracy when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2017.

“We’re a very strong, close family with strong ties to Unison, who helped us,” said Ms Duddy. “I would not like any other family to go through this scenario.”

National Union of Journalists delegate Lorraine Mallinder described how UC has been “an unmitigated disaster,” describing it as “tantamount to a super-sanction on freelancers.”

Supporting the motion, Unite delegate Tam Kirby told congress that the support of “every single trade unionist in Scotland” was required to end the UC benefits system.

UC is “the latest weapon they’re using against us in the class war they’re waging against us,” Mr Kirby said.

Meanwhile in the DWP:

We ran this story a few days ago but it continues to develop.

Independent Wednesday.

Ministers have been accused of keeping “alarming” findings about their flagship universal credit scheme under wraps for a year and a half.

MPs say it was “deeply irresponsible” to delay the release of the report, which suggests nearly half of claimants were not aware their tax credits would stop when they claimed universal credit, and 56 per cent felt they received too little information from HMRC.

The document was produced in November 2017 but only released this month to MPs who, in the meantime, have had to make “pivotal” decisions based on “partial” information, according to the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field.

In a letter to senior ministers, Mr Field said the “excessively long delay” had taken place during ongoing decisions about the flagship welfare benefit, which have affected the “lives and incomes of millions of people”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly argued that universal credit is more generous than the old benefit system and provides a “safety net” for those who need it.

Our old friend Amber Rudd is still at it!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2019 at 10:07 am

The Bedroom Tax that Never Went Away.

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It’s still there, and worse, under Universal Credit.

Amongst all the other things about Universal Credit, wait for payments, sanctions, benefit freeze, on-line forms and the hated ‘journal’, life under the rules of Coachy, and all the rest, most people, well this Blog for one, had forgotten about the Bedroom Tax.

Not, apparently the dogged Newshounds of the regional press.

Today: Birmingham Live.

Universal Credit claimants face bedroom tax of up to 25 per cent – here’s what you need do

These are the Universal Credit housing rules – as Government tries to make system fairer for tenants.

People receiving Universal Credit are being hit by cuts in their benefit because of the so-called bedroom tax.

Those in council or housing association properties are finding their Universal Credit reduced if they have more rooms than they need – even if there is a lodger living in one of them.

The amount paid to cover the rent could be slashed by as much as 25 per cent, says Shelter and Citizens Advice.

Bedroom tax – more formally known as under-occupancy penalty – was introduced in 2012 to reduce housing payments to those with spare bedrooms.

And it applies to Universal Credit, which has replaced six existing social security payments including the old housing benefit.

Liverpool Echo.

Claimants warned that Bedroom tax can reduce Universal Credit payments by 25%

Payments can be reduced – even if there’s a lodger living in the room.

If you want further cheer..

Birmingham Live.

The TRUTH about Universal Credit – from DWP Jobcentre staff

These are the stories of the staff who deal with Universal Credit on a daily basis.

Meanwhile Amber Rudd is still relentlessly full of high spirits.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 25, 2019 at 11:22 am

Universal Credit, 50% of Claimants Face Deductions from their Benefits.

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Amber Rudd Faces 50% of UC Claimants Misery.

On the things that ‘Think Tanks’ like Bright Blue seem unable, er, to think about, is the way Universal Credit has led to many people having deductions taken from their benefits.

Plain as the wart on their noses – causes being, amongst others, the long wait for money, and the problems with paying rent, and utility bills, the scale of this practice, as well as the immediate causes, astonishes even this Site.

The story is all over the media today so even the Rotters Club and the ERG might deign to notice it.

Over half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from payments, new figures show

Independent.

Deductions made when claimants have outstanding debts with their utility companies or landlord

More than half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from benefit payments

Chronicle Live.

Deductions are automatically taken from benefits when a claimant has a debt to pay, but an MP argues they’re cruel and force a reliance on foodbanks.

More than 50% of Universal Credit claimants have their benefits deducted – which an MP says is the ‘main supply route to food banks’.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released yesterday reveal 53% of Universal Credit claimants had some cash taken out of their payments in October 2018.

Deductions – which differ from sanctions – are made when claimants owe money to utility companies or landlords. The automatic deductions are used to pay the outstanding debts.

But MP Frank Field, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee who requested the figures, says the deductions leave families unable to afford essentials and are “a main supply route to foodbanks “. He has called on energy companies to write-off debts for customers who genuinely cannot afford to pay.

The figures show that 532,000 Universal Credit claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.

Six thousand claimants had reductions of 40% of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40%.

October’s statistics show a sharp rise in deductions compared to figures obtained by FOI in August 2018 by The Guardian newspaper, which showed one-third of claimants at that time saw money deducted from their payments.

In May 2017, just one in 10 claimants had their payments deducted, the figures said.

Here is the actual reply: Department for Work and Pensions.

Asked by Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Asked on: 07 February 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Universal Credit
Answered by: Alok Sharma
Answered on: 20 March 2019
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of universal credit claims had a deduction applied in the most recent month for which data is available.

The Government recognises the importance of safeguarding the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. Under Universal Credit there is a co-ordinated approach to deductions from benefit, which simplifies the current complex arrangements.

The aim of the deductions policy in Universal Credit is to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their gas, electricity and water cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services.

Work has been done to increase awareness of advances and access to them for claimants, and to support this, new guidance has been issued to staff.

This guidance makes it clear that claimants should be made aware of advances, made aware of their maximum entitlement and informed that their entitlement will be adjusted over the relevant recovery period to take this into account. This increased awareness has resulted in around 60% of eligible new claims to Universal Credit receiving an advance in October 2018, providing further financial support until their first payment.

Of all eligible claims* to Universal Credit Full Service due a payment in October 2018, 53% (532,000 claims) had a deduction to their standard allowance.

Of these 532,000 claims with a deduction:

a) 53% (284,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance (28% of all eligible claims).

b) 21% (113,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance (11% of all eligible claims).

c) 24% (129,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance (13% of all eligible claims).

d) 1% (6,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance (0.6% of all eligible claims).

Notes:

*Eligible claimants are claimants that have satisfied all the requirements of claiming Universal Credit; they have provided the necessary evidence, signed their claimant commitment and are eligible and have recieved their first payment.

These figures do not include sanctions or fraud penalties which are reductions of benefit rather than deductions.

Claim numbers may not match official statistics caseloads due to small methodological differences.

Claim numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

Amber has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2019 at 11:32 am

End the Benefit Freeze, “predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy”.

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I imagine many of us have the same routine.

Look in B&M for cheap food offers (tins of tomatoes to start with), and walk around to all the other places where stuff is good value – Aldi, Lidl, near the top of the list.

Every time – and I’m not talking about Bills, this is everyday, you notice that prices are slowly, but surely, going up.

Unlike benefits.

The Benefit Freeze started, believe it or not, in 2014.

The horror began where so many do – at Conservative party conference. In September 2014, then Chancellor George Osborne announced to the audience in Birmingham that benefits for people of working age would be frozen for two years.

New Statesman.

In the last few days there’s been a number of stories about this injustice.

Welfare Weekly,

Tory benefit freeze ‘predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy’

Chancellor Philip Hammond urged to end the freeze to working-age benefits a year earlier than originally planned.

It has been predicted that prolonging the four-year freeze to working-age benefits will “increase poverty more than any other policy” introduced by the Tory Government since 2015.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs, has received evidence showing that a family of four receiving Universal Credit will be over £800 a year worse off by 2020, when the controversial freeze is set to end, “even if both parents are working full-time on the National Living Wage”.

And analysis of figures from the House of Commons Library shows that affected households will have incomes between £888 and £1,845 lower in 2019-20, in real-terms, than they would have had if the freeze wasn’t in place.

Evidence compiled by the WPSC found that ending the benefit freeze – for all frozen benefits other than child benefit – a year earlier than originally intended would lift 200,000 people out of poverty.

“Households have seen significant actual cuts to their real income because of the various caps and freezes since 2010: a single earner couple with two children’s income will fall by 0.7% in real terms, and an out-of-work lone parent with one child by 6.7% in real terms, between 2010/11 and 2019/20.”

Witnesses told the Committee that that the main issue driving poverty and destitution “is that working-age benefits are paid at far too low a level now and have been for a number of years”.

They added: “Obviously, that has been exacerbated by the benefit freeze, so they are losing value year on year.”

The UK’s largest food bank network Trussell Trust says the only way to alleviate poverty and ease demand on food banks is to “ensure incomes, from both work and benefits, can meet people’s living costs”.

The charity recommended that the benefits freeze be lifted and benefits uprated in line with inflation, “in particular, Child Tax Credits and the Child Element of Universal Credit should be uprated in line with inflation to reflect the additional, inescapable costs upon families.”

The demand for an end to the freeze came from the Work and Pensions Committee,

Benefit freeze “predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy”: Committee to question Amber Rudd on benefit levels “driving destitution and poverty” – ahead of Spring Statement next week, Committee makes costed case to end freeze year early.

During March the Committee is taking evidence on the effects of the – effective – cut in people’s living standards.

Ahead of the evidence hearing the Committee has written to Amber Rudd saying “the current freeze was originally designed to save £3bn… the Treasury would still make in-year savings of £2.5bn in 2019/20, even if the freeze was ended a year early. This, combined with the most recent monthly public borrowing figures showing a budget surplus of £14.9bn in January 2019—£5.6bn more than the surplus in January 2018, and the largest January budget surplus on record   – lead the Committee to encourage the Secretary of State to “urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider ending the benefit freeze a year early”.

This call fell on deaf ears:

The Mirror.

Benefit freeze from April APPROVED by MPs – costing families up to £1,800 a year

It means millions of people’s benefits will be frozen for the fourth year in a row – while MPs’ pay rises 2.7% to almost £80,000

MPs tonight approved another year of the cruel benefit freeze – meaning it is now costing some families £1,800 a year.

Millions of working-age people’s benefits will now be frozen for the fourth year in a row from April.

Amber Rudd in the meantime is dancing with unicorns.

https://twitter.com/AmberRuddHR/status/1102946279783624704

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2019 at 11:08 am

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. Review.

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Abbey and Nathan are forced to rely on their dog to help them catch food (Mirror).

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.

Not that long ago Channel Four put on one of the worst series about people on benefits, the wittily named Benefits Street. White Dee and the rest of the Brummie crew were a barrel of not-unlovable rouges playing the system. Some said it was a modern freak show. That may be insulting to the people shown, but not far off about way they were shown.

How we laughed!

Channel Five’s the Great British Benefits Handout and others followed – like rats excited at easy prey. It looked like the telly had become screen version of the Sun, the Express and the Mail. It was open-season on scrounging idlers.

How things have changed. Last night Channel Four put on Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. In the first of 3 episodes there not many chortles. We saw people struggling with the rollout of Universal Credit in Hartlepool. Emphasis on struggling.

We got the message about the new angle right from the start. A couple of gammon talked about people having to work to eat. Switch to the “35 hours a week job search” and the Universal Credit Journal. The youngster who couldn’t read or write, having to cope with that. The fact that, in Hartlepool there weren’t jobs there for the taking.

Then there was woman juggling with paying either gas or electricity. We saw what it means for the under-25s who get less than those who’ve reached the magic age. Somebody made homeless because he couldn’t get the rent together. More juggling, ducking and weaving. Tracey, who managed to survive cancer, is the carer for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis. Single mum Terri, out desperately trying to get proper work.

David “fucking” on-Hold Music.

“Some of the most affecting moments in the programme were about David who had severe problems with his eyesight – a major, and rare, illness, keratoconus. He had got his PIP removed and is found fit for work. Now he is left with a fiver for a whole month to feed himself. He had to phone up the Dole for an appointment. On a pay-phone, outside the Food Bank. As he said, the waiting music alone was designed to fucking drive you up the wall. He gets told he has to do 5 days Job search…..

The poor sod, driven from pillar to post, was left in a world like Jo the Crossing Sweeper living in Dickens’ Tom-all-Alone.

The programme did not fail to mention that crisis loans no longer existed, and the ‘local’ (‘devolved’) Council fund, Local Welfare Assistance, couldn’t help those who asked.

Or to put in clips of Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May praising Universal Credit.

The “safety net” of the old welfare state is so full of holes it is starting to disappear.

Nathan and Abbey, waiting – how you wait! –  for the first payment on Universal Credit,  had one way of getting food when they were broke. Nathan got his dog Twister out tracking down rabbits on the local heath. There are few scenes on telly sadder than seeing the new hunter-gatherers preparing the cony and chucking the faithful hound a choice morsel. At least they had a bit of good cheer.

The world of Universal Credit is not just Dickens sprung to life. The homeless, who we only just glimpsed in this episode, have become like the street urchins of Les Misérables. Some would hope that like Gavroche they would rise on the barricades….

The series is a must-see.

Government Rejects Benefit Sanctions Inquiry report call to change “inhuman” Sanctions Regime.

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Our contributors could have already have said the following: “Benefit sanctions found to be ineffective and damaging. Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes”. (Guardian May 2018)

In fact some people who write here  are in dire straits because of this regime.

But the Government is still turning its face against facts’

Today:

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s publication of the government’s response to its benefit sanctions inquiry, said:

“The government appears to be in complete denial about the impact of its sanctions regime on people’s lives. It is damaging people’s health and well-being and leaving many at risk of destitution.

“There is no evidence that sanctions lead to people finding work that lasts and lifts them out of poverty. This government is so extreme that it has rejected reducing the length of sanctions and is even prepared to consider making them longer.

“The real way to help people into work is through an industrial strategy to deliver jobs and growth and employment support tailored to each person’s needs. Labour will end this government’s cruel and counter-productive sanctions regime.”

11 February 2019 Work and Pensions Committee.

No respite for “victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel” in Government’s response

The Committee is today publishing the Government’s response to its report on benefit sanctions. While the Government has finally agreed to evaluate one aspect of the impact of its reforms to conditionality and sanctions – the “only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated”  – it is looking only at their effectiveness in getting people into work. While this is clearly key, as it is the supposed objective of the policy, the Government is still not even considering the impact of sanctions on claimants’ financial and personal wellbeing. The widely reported detrimental impact of sanctions on claimants’ welfare formed the basis of the Committee’s report, when the Chair noted “We have heard stories of terrible and unnecessary hardship from people who’ve been sanctioned. They were left bewildered and driven to despair at becoming, often with their children, the victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel”.

Negative impact of sanctions worked against people getting into work

Even confined to the question of impact on employment, the Committee found that the negative impact of sanctions actually worked against people getting into work, to the extent that the Government’s approach appeared “arbitrarily punitive”. No evidence the Committee received was “more compelling than that against the imposition of conditionality and sanctions on people with a disability or health condition. It does not work. Worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.”

The Committee’s inquiry highlighted the distressing stories of claimants like Jen Fidai, a young disabled woman forced to sofa-surf and sleep in the Uni library for a year, and ultimately give up her studies, after she was sanctioned  – erroneously, as it turned out. It is these impacts on claimants’ lives, and the countless others which the Committee’s report and ongoing shocking news reports only scratch the surface of, which the Government is refusing to assess.

Forceful recommendation by Committee rejected

The Government rejected the recommendation that claimants already found to have limited capability for work should be exempt from sanctions, and also rejected the recommendation that claimants who are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment  – the medical assessments for disability benefits PIP and ESa which the Committee has previously denounced as “riddled with errors and omissions”, and also subject to lengthy delays  – should be exempt from sanctions if they had a “Fit Note” from a doctor saying they were unable to work. Government says it is looking into the possibility of a general policy that conditionality shouldn’t apply to those assessed as having limited work capability and people waiting for a WCA – although this decision would be in the hands of Work Coaches, ignoring the Committee’s wider concern that leaving too much to Work Coaches’ discretion in terms of sanctions more widely risked leading to inconsistent practice. The Government also rejected the recommendation to define “good reason” for failing to meet a requirement that led to a sanction – currently left to work coach discretion, leading to inconsistent practice – in legislation.

The Committee’s forceful recommendation – in the face of distressing evidence of the impact of sanctions on lone parents and their children – never to dock more than 20% of a lone parent’s benefit, was rejected, with the Government promising only to assess the employment impact of sanctions on this group as well. The Committee has reported elsewhere on the particular, deep difficulties lone parents are encountering under the major welfare reforms of the decade, including in its report on support for childcare costs under Universal Credit

Once again, the Government’s position on a key recommendation – that claimants is no longer subject to the requirement, the condition, that led to the sanction should also have the ongoing sanction lifted: the Government rejected this recommendation – is difficult to square with the supposed objective of the policy.  If sanctions are about incentivising, for example, looking for work, it is difficult to see the point of continuing to punish someone for not making sufficient efforts to find work when they are no longer in fact required to find work.

Chair’s Comment

Commenting on the response, Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field said:

“Our report laid bare the inhumanity of the Government’s sanctions regime, which it has pursued for years without ever stopping to check whether it works or what it is doing to the people it is meant to “support”.

In response, the Government has failed utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter. It talks about reviews and “proof of concept”: it might want to take a look at the concept of not pushing disabled people and single parents—not to mention their children—into grinding poverty and hardship.”

Tories SNUB pleas to rein in ‘pointlessly cruel’ benefit sanctions

The Mirror.

New limits to the punishments were proposed in a damning report last year. But now DWP chiefs have rejected the plan – triggering a furious response.

Ministers have snubbed a series of recommendations designed to ease the burden of benefit sanctions on vulnerable claimants, it is revealed today.

A damning report from the Commons Work and Pensions Committee branded the system “pointlessly cruel” in November.

MPs warned the human cost of the sanctions regime was “simply too high” and called for new protections for single parents and people with disabilities and health conditions.

Committee chairman Frank Field today accuses ministers of “failing utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter” after recommendations were rejected by Amber Rudd’s Department for Work and Pensions.

Under the current system, sanctions can be imposed for missing appointments or failure to show efforts to find work,.

Claimants face being stripped of up to 100% of their Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit standard allowance.

In some “higher level” cases – such as a failure to take up paid work – claimants can lose benefits for as long as three years.

The committee recommended that the maximum period for such sanctions should be limited to two months for the first failure to comply and four and six months for subsequent breaches.

But the DWP rejected the plan, along with recommendations to ensure lone parents with children aged under five are never subjected to the withdrawal of more than 20% of their welfare payments; limit sanctions on care-leavers below the age of 25 to 20% of their benefits; remove the threat of sanctions from claimants deemed to have “limited capability for work” and those with valid sickness notes from their doctors; and remove sanctions if a change in circumstances means the claimant is no longer subject to the requirement that led to benefits being withheld in the first place.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2019 at 11:31 am

Universal Credit Creates “looming Eviction Crisis.

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For many people Citizen’s Advice is the first port of call when they have problems with benefits, starting with Universal Credit.

Here is what’s happening with our Citizen’s Advice Service in Suffolk.

The East Anglian Daily Times reports:

On Thursday, February 14, the final vote on 2019/20 budget proposals will take place at Suffolk County Council’s full council meeting, where divisive cuts to the £368,000 Citizens Advice grant over two years has been put forward by the Conservative administration.

But the opposition Labour group, which has already called for a reversal of the cuts, has now tabled an amendment to ringfence £2,500 from each councillor’s locality budget – an £8,000 pot each councillor has to spend on projects and improvements in their ward – for Citizens Advice.

With 75 elected councillors, the proposal would secure £187,500 for Citizens Advice’s core funding.

It means that the £184,000 Citizens Advice is set to lose in 2019/20 is covered, while further ways to cover funding will be explored for 2020/21. Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, said the planned cuts were “a dangerous act of self-harm that will pile even more pressure on the council’s beleaguered public services”.

Here is the CAB’s latest statement on Universal Credit.

Citizens Advice reveals half of claimants seeking benefits assistance risk being evicted

Citizens Advice has called for a root and branch overhaul of universal credit, after revealing that half of all claimants who came to it for help managing the new benefit were at risk of being evicted owing to rent arrears and hardship.

Relatively minor changes to the way the benefit operates, announced by ministers in the 2017 budget after coming under intense pressure from campaigners, have “only made a dent in the problem rather than fixed it”, the charity said.

The minimum five-week wait for a first benefit payment left nearly half of claimants it advised unable to pay household bills, or forced them to go without essentials such as food or heating, it said, while 54% had to borrow cash from family and friends to stay afloat.

“Half the people we help with universal credit are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice.

Here is the CAB Press Release:

People claiming Universal Credit are still struggling to pay for the roof over their heads, despite the wait for their first payment being reduced from 6 weeks to 5, new Citizens Advice data shows.

1 in 2 people the charity helped were in rent arrears or fell behind on their mortgage payments, the same number as when the wait for the first payment was longer.

Citizens Advice also found 60% of people it helped are taking out advances while they wait for payment.

The research also found that, following changes by Government in 2017, fewer people are falling behind on their bills or going without essentials during the wait period. Payment timeliness has improved – now 1 in 6 people are not paid in full and on time, while previously it was 1 in 4.

The report, Managing Money on Universal Credit, released today, reveals new analysis based on the 190,000 people Citizens Advice has helped with Universal Credit.

Among the people the charity helps with debt and Universal Credit:

  • Debt problems are more common for the people we help with Universal Credit than those claiming benefits under the previous system, with 24% of the people we helped with Universal Credit also seeking debt advice.

  • Nearly one in two (47%) have no money left after essential living costs (such as food, housing and transport) to pay creditors, or are spending more than they take in.

  • More than 4 in 5 (82%) hold priority debt such as council tax, rent arrears or mortgage payments, and energy debts.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to make Universal Credit far more flexible to fit around people’s lives and to make sure people have enough money to live on.

It also wants Alternative Payment Arrangements to be more widely available, allowing for rent to be paid direct to a landlord, more frequent payments, and a payment to go to both members of a couple.

Just 3% of claimants currently receive more frequent payments, while just 20 households in the UK receive split payments to different family members.

Four in 10 of the people helped by Citizens Advice are aware of managed payments to landlords, while just 1 in 6 know payments can be made more frequently.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Half the people we help with a Universal Credit claim are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment.

“Changes to the waiting period for first payment have improved things for many people, but our evidence shows they don’t go far enough.

“Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on.”

I watched this last night:

Life on Benefits: Universal Credit?

Brexit might be dominating the headlines – but arguably one of the biggest changes to the welfare state in a generation is the roll out of Universal Credit – which could affect over eight million people across the UK.

Tonight, Richard Bacon explores the impact of Universal Credit and meets some of those receiving the benefit.

CRITICISM

Universal Credit was announced in 2010 by Tory politician Ian Duncan Smith as a way to combine many benefits and incentivise people into work, but critics are furious that it’s bringing hardship to many families.

Everywhere you look there are issues with the system. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for families, it’s not working for lone parents, it’s not working for those in jobs and it’s not working for the self employed.

– TESSA GREGORY, A SOLICITOR WITH LEIGH DAY

The Trussell Trust are a nationwide network of food banks and say the use of food banks have increased by 52% in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced.

Fair enough as it went, but it could have been an hour long instead of 30 minutes.