2.7m people frightened of Universal Credit

All over the country protests are taking place against the bedroom tax and plans to bring in Universal Credit
All over the country protests are taking place against the bedroom tax and plans to bring in Universal Credit

A PAYMENT COUNCIL survey shows that more than 2.7 million people who are currently receiving benefits fear they will struggle when Universal Credit replaces their current welfare payments.

Under the new scheme all weekly or fortnightly benefits are replaced by the monthly Universal Credit.

Unlike Housing Benefit, it will be paid straight into the claimant’s bank account instead of going directly to a landlord or housing association.

This is in a situation where most households are desperately short of cash and are already having to choose whether to buy food or pay to heat their homes.

The prospect is that the ‘rent money’ will have to be spent on food and families will be evicted.

‘Pay Your Way’ research carried out on behalf of the Payment Council has identified that one of the key worries is being switched to monthly payments.

One in every two people who are eligible for Universal Credit think that the change will make it more difficult to manage their money, with common concerns including running into or increasing debt, and struggling to pay bills or rent on time.

Tim Nichols, from the Child Poverty Action Group, told News Line yesterday: ‘When you look at the evidence of the demands that are being made on claimants’ small household budgets and their financial skills, we’re very concerned that this is asking for too much, too soon.

‘In fact, you find that many of the claimants are actually brilliant at budgeting out of necessity and they find shorter payment periods an aid to this.

‘But for other claimants who are considered more vulnerable, for example, those who live independently but have moderate learning disabilities, this is likely to be a major problem.

‘As things stand, direct payments to landlords are popular with both claimants and landlords, so you have to ask, if it ain’t broke why fix it.

‘Already households are counting the pennies at the end of the week, with parents often skipping meals as they get to the end of the payment period and await the next payment.

‘Doing so for one or two days at the end of a week or a fortnight is bad enough, but to do so for several days at the end of a month will be awful and will push even further the growth of food banks as a necessity of a failed safety net.’

A TUC spokesman told News Line: ‘The TUC is naturally concerned about moving from a weekly or fortnightly to a monthly system and also that lots of staff who are easing the process of this transition by providing advice to claimants, are losing their jobs.’

New claimants in six more areas (Hammersmith, Inverness, Rugby, Harrogate, Bath and Shotton) are being moved on to Universal Credit this month.