Over 60 per cent of households on Universal Credit are struggling to keep up with their bills, including housing, fuel, groceries, and other living costs. A study from HM Revenue and Customs as well as Department of Work and Pensions shows that as the Universal Credit benefit is rolled out across the UK, many of the families and individuals who are on it are struggling to keep up.
The report shows a number of reasons for why people are struggling. The number one is due to the delay in to the claimant in receiving their first payment from the government. It takes a least 5 weeks for a claimant to get their first Universal Credit cheque, however a large percentage from the HM Revenue and Customs shows that it is often taking up twice as long as that. The resulting wait leads to financial hardship.
Percent of Universal Credit claimants struggling
That waiting period is the reason why most of the 37% are in financial distress. Universal Credit claimants will generally have a low income and no or little savings. If they have to wait weeks for a check, it is difficult to pay the rent or buy food. They often need to turn to a free foodbank or church for help. Or they may be facing homelessness or evictions from their home or flats.
That 5 to 10 week timeframe (or longer) would put any family into financial distress. Even high street bankers would probably not be able to pay their big mortgage or for their fancy cars. Most UK families live cheque to cheque, and if/when they have a delay in their payment it makes it difficult for them.
27 per cent of those claimants on Universal Credit can barely keep up with their bills. Most of them are receiving their benefits on time and each month. However, a large percentage of those 27% are behind as they struggle to budget and manage the money.
Living on one government benefit payment each month (instead of the 6 payments in the past) makes it a priority for the recipient to spend the money wisely. They need to ensure that UC covers all the bills they have, often including rent, gasoline, train, food, heat or fuel costs, clothes, debt, medical and more. Many of the Universal Claimants do not have any experience in budgeting so they spend too much money too quickly.
What struggling claimants can do
Adding those two numbers together, this means that 64% of claimants identified by HM Revenue and Customs are struggling. There is assistance out there while a claimant is waiting on the first payment. Or there is also help around budgeting, understanding how to pay the bills and more.
A big one will be to use a free food bank. This can provide free emergency food, and Trussell Trust and churches help claimants. Another one will be the Salvation Army, as they provide clothes, basic needs, and social services. Some even have debt centres. The Department of Work and Pensions reports also links Universal Credit claimants to Citizens Advice, local council offices and other charities.
HM Revenue and Customs and DWP shows that over 60 per cent are struggling. As Universal Credit rolls out, more and more people will be impacted. Never hesitate to as for help.