New research shows personalised support is key to unlocking help for “9 in 10” not ready for Universal Credit
The results of a major piece of research by Citizens Advice show that of 9 in 10 people not ready for Universal Credit, personalised help allowed more than half to improve their ability to deal with the huge upheaval caused by the Government’s flagship reform.
Three Citizens Advice Bureaux across the UK have been examining how to help people affected by impact of Universal Credit, which merges six different benefits into one system. Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said that the research demonstrated how positive an impact “personalised support work can have”, and that “the only way to ensure residents are protected through these changes is for Citizens Advice Bureaux and councils to work closely together through the transition.”
Citizens Advice Bureaux in Greater Manchester have already been closely involved in delivering help to people moving onto the new benefit since the project was launched in April this year, but the charity has warned that if resources are not made available to bureaux across the country, then people affected by the reform may struggle to cope with the upheaval. With three-quarters likely to struggle with monthly budgeting, there is a risk that without support, many could end up unable to pay bills and housing costs.
As part of the ‘Managing Migration Pilot’, clients of the charity in Birmingham, Ynys Mon and North Dorset were asked whether they are able to deal with challenges arising from the new system. Difficulties identified by the charity include accessing basic banking services, budgeting with single monthly payments and completeing online application forms.
The initial results from the research demonstrated that 9 in 10 of the charity’s clients would struggle with at least one element of the new system. After tailored and dedicated support from staff and volunteers in the three bureaux, over half of clients involved in the charity’s pilot had improved their capacity and skills to manage a claim for Universal Credit.
Of the 9 in 10 who initially said they would struggle with the new system, 38 per cent were not ready in every capability area, suggesting personal support can help even those in the most challenging personal circumstances.
The charity found that:
•95 per cent of its clients said they would benefit from fortnightly rather than monthly support payments;
•80 per cent told their bureau that it would help them if their rent was paid directly to their landlord;
•21 per cent said they would struggle with payments going into one bank account per household rather than to each individual.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“The only way to ensure residents are protected through these changes is for Citizens Advice Bureaux and councils to work closely together through the transition.
“The research we publish today shows just how big a positive impact our personalised support work can have, but this is a long-term commitment and we cannot deliver this support forever without proper support and planning from ministers.
“I’m pleased that Government has agreed that a slower roll-out is the right way to deliver this reform. Taking the sensible decision to slow the process down is step one. Step two is for ministers to confirm how they will support Citizens Advice Bureaux, councils and others in safely delivering this reform.
“More than three hundred Citizens Advice Bureaux will be at the sharp end of making sure this reform helps people become more independent whilst still protecting those who have lost their job, have a disability or are struggling to pay their rent.
“This new system is in its infancy but sixty-four thousand people have already gone to our website for advice on Universal Credit since January, and ministers have been worryingly unclear about how they will help people manage with the significant challenges they face. Putting in place strong, personalised support is an issue which must be addressed now.
“We will work with councils and other organisations in the community to give our clients greater responsibility, but we need help from government to help our clients.”
The reform has been the focus of criticism in recent weeks with a delay to the planned roll-out confirmed by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, last week. Citizens Advice has long warned that strong support would need to be put in place to help people manage with the major changes created by the ambitious reform and that it is better to introduce the new system slowly and well, not quickly and badly.
Notes to editors:
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- 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.
- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk.
- 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
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.