Waiting for Credit – report into how Universal Credit is working

Earlier this year we did some research into how Universal Credit (UC) is experienced by the people who are claiming it. We were particularly excited about this as it involved working with 15 other Citizens Advice offices in England and Wales which all had been pilot areas for the introduction of UC, including the digital service. About one in ten of all Citizens Advice clients in England and Wales who had been given advice on UC were interviewed for the research, so quite a big sample which we were pleased about.

The research highlights the serious difficulties our clients had having to wait at least 6 weeks for their first payment, and some of the administrative and structural problems which can cause further delays. 80% of those surveyed had problems managing to pay their rent and afford food, gas and electricity whilst they waited for their first payment.

We also found that, although UC has been designed for monthly payments allegedly because workplaces pay monthly, less than half of our respondents had been paid monthly before claiming, so it really did not fit their budgeting patterns at all.

And ironically, because of the difficulties in having little or no income for a few weeks, many were not able to spend time or money looking for work.

We are very grateful to the Citizens Advice clients in Bath and North East Somerset who willingly answered our detailed questions and told us personal stories of hardship, frustration and the cost of getting through to UC on the phone.

It wasn’t all bad news however, and some people In Bath and North East Somerset felt supported by Job Centre Plus in their search for work, especially those with caring responsibilities.

The Report was launched at a special meeting in the Houses of Parliament, chaired by Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson and attended by MPs, Peers and researchers. Sarah and Brian, 2 clients from Warrington, told their stories with dignity and at the end were invited to meet Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Baroness Gray-Thompson and Baroness Lister also planned to meet with Lord Freud the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The Report makes 12 recommendations for improvement to the delivery of Universal Credit, from having an 0800 phone number to having a fair way to calculate earnings. Waiting for Credit: the delivery of Universal Credit as experienced by Citizens Advice clients in England and Wales can be accessed here Waiting For Credit.

If you’d like to tell us about your experiences or find out more about the research, please email us on research@cab-banes.org