Citizens Advice has this morning responded to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke’s speech at Conservative Party Conference, where he pledged to push ahead with the roll-out of Universal Credit.
The Minister announced he will introduce refreshed guidance that ensures an advance payment will be offered up front to anyone who needs it and paid within five working days.
Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said:
“It is reassuring to see that David Gauke recognises there are problems with Universal Credit, and his commitment to making sure people can access advance payments is welcome. However, we are disappointed he has not taken this opportunity to pause the roll-out to ensure the problems are fixed before it speeds up significantly.
“Evidence from Citizens Advice and others – including the DWP itself – shows many people risk getting into serious debt as a result of delayed first payments. Advance payments can help people make ends meet during this period, but they must be combined with more action to reduce the number of people waiting more than six weeks for their initial payment. The government also need to make sure people have access to the support they need to help them adapt as they move onto the new benefit.
“We will continue to closely monitor the effect of Universal Credit on issues such as debt and rent arrears as the roll-out continues, and are committed to working with the DWP and others to ensure the new system works for everyone.”
Citizens Advice has helped people with over 100,000 issues with Universal Credit, and in August the equivalent of 12% of people applying for the benefit turned to the charity for help.
In a report published last month 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.
2 in 5 (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 a month left to pay creditors.
These findings were confirmed by figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed 1 in 5 people applying for Universal Credit are waiting longer than six weeks for their first payment and further DWP research which showed people on the new benefit are falling into rent arrears, with over 2 in 5 saying this was due to problems with the benefit.
Citizens Advice is urging the government to ensure no one applying for Universal Credit waits longer than 6 weeks for an income, and that anyone who needs it gets a payment within 2 weeks that they do not need to repay.
Notes to editors
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, 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 get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice 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.
- Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.