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Faults in system ‘leave vulnerable people unable to access benefits’

Many don’t understand the Universal Credit claims process

Millions of people risk being unable to access their benefits because of faults in the Universal Credit system, a charity has warned.

A survey of Salvation Army service users found 85% of people surveyed struggled to complete their claim.

Of these, 60% cited not being able to use a computer or not understanding the complicated system as the main reasons they struggled to complete the process.

The government’s own research suggests that 20% of Universal Credit claims are dropped before they are completed

Half of the people surveyed said mental ill-health meant they struggled to move on to Universal Credit.

Meanwhile, the government’s own research suggests 20% of Universal Credit claims are dropped before they are completed.

The Salvation Army argued there is overwhelming evidence that unless the government provides more support, vulnerable people will struggle to access their benefits and could be left unable to buy food, pay their rent and take care of their children.

“Over two million people are currently claiming ESA and are due to be moved onto Universal Credit – many of them are going to struggle to access a system that is complicated, bureaucratic and digital by default”

Rebecca Keating, director of employment services at The Salvation Army

Rebecca Keating, director of employment services at The Salvation Army, warned that rolling out Universal Credit in its current form will steamroll vulnerable people into poverty.

“It is these vulnerable people who also claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit for those who need extra help to get back into work. Over two million people are currently claiming ESA and are due to be moved onto Universal Credit. Our research shows that many of them are going to struggle to access a system that is complicated, bureaucratic and digital by default,” she argued.

The Salvation Army is calling for better identification of vulnerable people and those with mental health issues so they have tailored support to move onto Universal Credit.  

It also wants investment to ensure smaller caseloads for Jobcentre work coaches so they have more time to properly identify and support clients who need extra help.  

“Universal Credit is already the main reason people are coming to our foodbanks,” said Keating. “They come to us for help at the point when they have given up and got themselves into debt trying to manage without the money for rent and food.”