Citizens Advice is warning that the expansion of Universal Credit is ‘a disaster waiting to happen’, as new findings show it is pushing people further into debt.
The charity says that the government’s plans to accelerate roll-out of the benefit, from five to 50 areas a month from October, could have catastrophic consequences, as there are still many problems with the system including the long wait for first payment. These challenges, and the resulting pressure on public services, also undermine the good intentions behind Universal Credit and risk preventing it from living up to promise.
A recent report from Citizens Advice analysed over 50,000 cases where it has helped people with their debt problems and found that for those on Universal Credit:
- 79% have priority debts such a rent or council tax, putting them at greater risk of eviction, visits from bailiffs, being cut off from energy supplies and even prison — compared to (69%) on legacy benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance or Housing Benefit.
- Two in five (41%) have no money available to pay creditors as their monthly spend on essential living costs is more than their income.
- Typically people on Universal Credit only have around £3.00 a month left to pay creditors.
Citizens Advice is urging the government to ensure no one applying for Universal Credit waits longer than six weeks for an income, and that anyone who needs it gets a payment within two weeks that they do not need to repay.
The charity is also renewing its call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused until problems with the benefit are fixed and for the government to ensure support is in place to help people adapt as they move onto the new benefit.
For information and advice, contact Citizens Advice Bassetlaw on their telephone service, 03444 111 444. A drop-in service is available at the Worksop office based in The Annexe, Queens Building, Potter Street, Worksop (next to the Savoy Cinema) on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9.30am to 3.00pm and on Fridays from 9.30am to 1.00pm and at the Retford outreach office, 17b The Square, Retford on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.00am to 2.00pm.