One in two people Citizens Advice helps with Universal Credit struggle to pay for housing as they wait for payment
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.”
Notes to editors
- Citizens Advice surveyed 1,193 people the charity helps with Universal Credit, analysed data from 21,085 debt advice clients and interviewed claimants and frontline advisers for this research.
- Every area in the UK now has Universal Credit. The number of people claiming the benefit doubled to more than 1.4 million in 2018, and is set to increase by a further 1.6 million people this year.
- Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
- Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.
- Citizens Advice is the largest provider of free, multi-channel debt advice. Debt is the second most common issue we help people with, accounting for 1 in 4 of the problems we helped people with last year. Providing that help gives Citizens Advice unique insight into the types of debts people struggle with.
- Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and postal markets. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
- The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free and independent support for both prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
- Citizens Advice also offers Pension Wise appointments at 500 locations across England and Wales.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
- We helped 2.6 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2017-18. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.