We need to fix Universal Credit before it is rolled out in Wandsworth

Alongside the national Citizens Advice organisation, we’re calling on the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and fix the problems before they hit us hard in Wandsworth in 2018.

We have written to our local MPs urging them to take this matter up with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

We support Universal Credit’s aim to simplify the benefit system. However, our evidence shows that it is forcing people into debt and leaving them unable to make ends meet. For example, Citizens Advice national research shows that more than 1 in 3 people we help on Universal Credit are waiting more than 6 weeks to receive any income, including 11% who are waiting over 10 weeks.

The Government needs to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and fix 3 significant problems we’ve identified:

  • People are waiting up to 12 weeks for their first payment without any income.
  • Universal Credit is too complicated and people are struggling to use it.
  • People aren’t getting help when the system fails them.

Universal Credit is being introduced across the UK in stages. It replaces 6 means-tested benefits, including Tax Credits, Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit. By 2022, 7 million families will receive Universal Credit. Over half of those will be in work.

Universal Credit will begin fully rolling out in Wandsworth in March 2018. Nationally 7% of the roll-out is complete, and Citizens Advice has already helped people with 80,000 Universal Credit issues. Our analysis suggests 28,000 families in the three Wandsworth constituencies will be receiving Universal Credit by 2022 (Battersea 9,500, Putney 8,500 and Tooting 10,000).

So far the Government has taken a gradual ‘test and learn’ approach to the roll-out of Universal Credit. During this time, Citizens Advice has worked closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to share our clients’ experience of the roll-out, and we’ve achieved small improvements. However, the 3 significant problems above have not been addressed.

Despite this, the Government plans to dramatically speed up the roll-out from October 2017, leaving hundreds of thousands more people facing serious financial risk.

A Citizens Advice briefing note summarises the problems people are having and our recommendations on how to fix them. You can also find the Citizens Advice Universal Credit report. 

Phil Jew

Chief Executive

Citizens Advice Wandsworth

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