The DWP just quietly revealed the staggering scale of misery caused by Universal Credit

DWP Logo with Stop and Scrap Universal Credit badges
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has quietly revealed the extent to which Universal Credit is throwing claimants into arrears, debt, and poverty. It’s staggering.

The DWP: damning analysis

As the Mirror reported, on 8 June the DWP “quietly slipped” out the results [pdf] of a claimant survey on its flagship benefit.

The survey was carried out between [pdf, p3] March and September 2017, in two waves [pdf, p13]. The first wave was with 1,014 claimants, three to four months into their claims. The second was with 1,004 claimants, five months later. The results make for damning reading.

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Staggering figures

Overall [pdf, p67], in both waves only 25% of claimants said they were “keeping up with bills and credit commitments without any difficulties”. 72% either struggled from “time to time” or constantly, fell behind or were having “real financial difficulties”:

DWP UC survey keeping up with bills and credit commitments

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Those with long-term health conditions struggled the most, with around half in both waves in financial difficulties [pdf, p68]:

DWP UC survey keeping up with bills by health condition

Also, 50% of claimants in wave two had to get “additional funds” to supplement their universal credit payments [pdf, p69].

Over a third of claimants in both waves were in housing payment arrears [pdf, p72]:

DWP UC survey housing payment arrears

Again, the DWP report admitted [pdf, p72] that those with a health condition were among the groups more likely to be experiencing housing payment arrears – 42% and 38% in waves one and two respectively [pdf, p73]. Also, of the claimants surveyed who took part in both waves, 44% said their arrears had “become larger” between waves [pdf, p74].

Over a fifth of claimants in both waves were in both financial difficulties and housing payment arrears [pdf, p74]:

DWP UC survey summary of financial difficulties

And again, those with long-term health conditions were overall [pdf, p75] more likely to be experiencing both financial difficulties and housing payment arrears – 26% versus 13% with no health conditions in wave one and 27% versus 18% in wave two.

Overarching issues

In terms of claiming universal credit, the DWP survey showed [pdf, p13] that 21% of claimants needed help completing the application. But more worryingly 25% could not complete their claim online at all. This was due to “difficulties using or accessing computers or the internet”. Universal credit is a digital service.

What also made for concerning reading in the report was claimants’ awareness of the rules and procedures surrounding universal credit. Overall:

  • 39% either didn’t know or thought it was “untrue” that they could work as many hours as they want and still get universal credit if they were on a low income [pdf, p13].
  • 46% didn’t think their claimant commitment took into account their personal circumstances, and 37% didn’t think it was achievable [pdf, p14].
  • 39% didn’t think universal credit was supporting them well enough to find work [pdf, p14].
  • 41% didn’t know they could claim back most of their childcare costs [pdf, p17].

With regards to finding work, just 13% of people surveyed in both waves who were unemployed at the start, moved into paid work by the end of the survey period [pdf, p15].

Broken beyond repair?

The DWP defended itself to the Mirror. It said:

The survey shows that the vast majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money with nearly seven out of ten (67 per cent) claimants saying they felt confident managing their Universal Credit payments.

It was carried out between March and September 2017 and relates to a point in time prior to the changes announced at the autumn budget.

Since then our improvements include the abolition of waiting days, making 100% advance payments available from day one, and introducing two weeks additional housing cost support for people joining Universal Credit from Housing Benefit.

The evidence in this report was used to support the introduction of these changes.

Furthermore, we are also investing up to £200m to provide budgeting advice and digital support to those who need it.

But with growing anger and concern over universal credit, this DWP survey just adds more weight to the argument that it is broken beyond repair.

Get Involved!

– Support DPAC and Black Triangle, campaigning for disabled people’s rights.

– Read The Canary‘s full analysis of Universal Credit.

Featured image via DPAC and UK government – Wikimedia 

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