June 8, 2018

 Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has called for key cuts to Universal Credit to be reversed following new DWP evidence showing a large number of claimants are struggling to make ends meet many months into their claims. The survey also shows a significant number of claimants had no confidence in their ‘claimant commitment’ – the document setting out what claimants must do to receive universal credit, including work-related requirements. A full fifth of claimants (21%) were unable to submit their claim online mainly due to difficulties using computers or the internet.

In light of the findings, the charity wants cuts in the work allowance (the amount claimants can earn before their universal credit starts to be reduced) to be reversed.

It will also press for the introduction of clear rules to determine what should be expected of claimants, especially those with health conditions, disabilities and caring responsibilities, to ensure that what claimants are required to do is fair and appropriate for individuals’ circumstances.

 Key findings from the DWP’s Universal Credit Full Service Survey, published today, include:

 Managing money:

 • Around 3 months into their claim only just over half of claimants (53%) were keeping up with bills and credit commitments while 44% were falling behind or experiencing real financial difficulties. At 8-9 months into their claim, 57% were keeping up while 40% were falling behind or experiencing real financial difficulty.

 • Eight or nine months into their claim, half of claimants had to obtain additional funds during the three months prior to interview. One third (33%) had received money from family and friends, 13% received an advance from the DWP and 11% gained or extended a bank overdraft. Other sources included charities, payday loans, doorstep lending, credit cards or bank loans.

 • Of claimants receiving a housing element of universal credit, 36% in the first three months of their claim and 37% of those 8 or 9 months into their claim, were in arrears. Of those in arrears, 65% said they fell into debt after they made their Universal Credit claim.

 • 71% of those in arrears at three months were still in arrears at 8-9 months into their claim. 44% said the amount they owed had got larger (compared with 29% who said it had got smaller and 27% who had caught up)

 • Of those who had claimed back childcare costs through universal credit, 4 in 10 were dissatisfied with the experience of this process.

 The requirements on claimants:

 • Only 54% believed their claimant commitment took their personal circumstances into account.

 • Only 63% believed their claimant commitment was achievable.

 • Only 55% believed that the claimant commitment would increase their chance of finding work or increase hours or income.

 • Only just over half (52%) said their claimant commitment has been reviewed with their work coach in the last 3 months (although in universal credit there is an intention to regularly review and update claimant commitments)

 • Only just under half were confident they would find a job or increase their hours or income within the following three months.

 Online experience:

 • 21% were unable to submit their claim online mainly due to difficulties using computers or the internet.

 Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said:

 “The DWP’s own survey findings show universal credit is a dismal failure for a large number of people who rely on it. It is clear that there are still many people who months into their claim, are being left with too little to live on and who face work-related requirements that don’t take their circumstances into account. It is also all too apparent that an online-only system cannot work for everyone. People should have the opportunity to claim their entitlements in face-to-face settings, if they need it.

 “Universal Credit once had strong poverty-reducing potential but big funding reductions have meant it is failing to achieve its original aims. Many of its design faults have been allowed to go uncorrected. Unless funding for universal credit is restored and its design re-visited, this once flagship benefit will continue to fail.”

 Note to Editors:

 The Universal Credit Full Service Survey, is based on interviews with over 1000 claimants in March 2017 and September 2017 – approximately 3 and 8 months into their claim.

The survey is here : https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...