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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Urgent changes needed to Universal Credit

The clamour for changes to Universal Credit is growing louder as it more and more vulnerable claimants find themselves being pushed into destitution, hunger and debt when they move on to the benefit.

As the Guardian reports, End Hunger UK, a coalition of 73 poverty charities and faith groups, say that excessive payment delays, common administrative errors and lack of support for claimants struggling to navigate the online-only system is driving up the use of food banks.

They have called for a dramatic reduction in the time claimants must wait for a first payment from a minimum of five weeks to just two weeks. They believe that the long wait is financially crippling for claimants who had no savings to fall back on:

There is growing concern among campaigners, landlords and opposition MPs about the cost and effectiveness of universal credit, as well as its impact on claimants, as the government prepares to “migrate” 3 million existing benefit claimants on to the benefit from next July.

The Trussell Trust food bank network reported a 52% average rise in demand for food aid in universal credit areas last year, compared with 13% in areas where it had not been rolled out.

The NAO’s universal credit report substantiated the Trussell Trust findings, seeing increased charity food parcel demand in three of the four areas it analysed, including an 80% increase in Hastings.

End Hunger UK also called for a rethink of advance payments, the system of repayable loans that is the government’s preferred method of supporting low-income claimants through the wait for a first universal credit payment.

It said the level of repayment on advances – capped at 40% of the living costs element of a monthly universal credit payment – should be relaxed to a maximum of 10%, to ensure claimants have enough disposable income to live on.

Surely it is time the UK Government listened and implemented these changes.
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