Citizens Advice says concerns remain despite government’s budget boost for Universal Credit

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Citizens Advice says concerns remain despite government’s budget boost for Universal Credit

Category : Benefits

Friday 02 November 2018

Citizens Advice has responded to the government’s announcement of a boost in funding for Universal Credit in this year’s Budget.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Today’s announcement suggests the government rightly acknowledges Universal Credit has serious problems that must be fixed. This funding will help some people who are really struggling to get by including disabled people.

“However, there are still fundamental problems with Universal Credit. Based on our evidence, we believe improvements must be made to Universal Credit before millions more people are moved onto the new benefit.

“We await further details on additional protections announced for those moving over to Universal Credit as we’re concerned some people may be left behind without enough money to live on.”


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CAB News Friday 26 October 2018

Friday 26 October 2018

Our report on disabled people being up to £300 worse off under Universal Credit got widespread national coverage this morning.

There are two template press releases available on Cablink (here and here) for you to send to your local media contacts: if you have UC and if you don’t. This includes breakdowns of the number of clients you help who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.

National

Universal Credit

Universal Credit Could Strip Disabled People Of £300 A Month, Says New Report

Huffington Post, 26/10/2018

Our report on the detrimental effect Universal Credit will have on disabled people was carried by Huffington Post

They interviewed a case study we provided who found he was missing out on £97.85 per week when he was moved to Universal Credit.

Sam said “it gets to the point that I pay my bills and I have £100 left to live on for the whole month..It gets me down that I can’t see my friends as much as I’d like”.

CREDIT CHAOS: Disabled people will be ‘£300 a month worse off’ under Universal Credit

The Sun, 26/10/2018

The Sun also reported on the flaws in the system which mean some disabled people will suffer financially.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said “Some disabled people will be unfairly disadvantaged under Universal Credit. The government needs to address this and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under Universal Credit.”

Our report was also covered by:

Kayley Hignell interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live

Wake up to Money, 26/10/2018 (34m 50s in)

Kayley Hignell, our Head of Policy for Families, Welfare and Work, was interviewed on 5 Live’s Wake up to Money programme about an MP report into Universal Credit – which said the DWP had a “culture of indifference” about the benefit.

Kayley said: “For the people we’ve been looking at recently – people who have disabilities – we are finding that those who are working aren’t able to access the support that’s available in the Universal Credit system to make sure that is the case – that they are better off when working.”

Rogue Landlords

53 councils have not prosecuted a single landlord in three years

The Guardian, 25/10/2018, p10, Tom Wall

Rules for landlords not fit for purpose, says John McDonnell

A joint investigation by The Guardian and ITV found more than one in seven councils in England and Wales have failed to prosecute a single bad landlord over the past three years.

Jill Harrison, the chief executive of Enfield Citizens Advice, said rogue landlords had little to fear in Enfield because the council does not have the resources to deal with the complaints.

She said “there is a serious problem with disrepair in the borough. But there is very little disincentive for rogue landlords behaving in this way.”

Debt

I wanted to kill myself over £50k debts but here’s how I paid it off every penny in six years

The Sun online, 24/10/2018

The Sun reports on a charity worker who considered suicide over £50,000 worth of debt, but then managed to pay back every cent in six years.
With support from debt advisers at Citizens Advice and a mental health charity, Emma Malcolm, from Hampshire, turned her finances around.

Ms Malcolm, spoke of the advice Citizens Advice gave her, and said “they helped me sort out what payments were a priority and how I could make some extra cash”.

In other news

New railcard for millennials – people aged between 26-30 – will be able to get the special railcard by the end of the year.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned UK’s most vulnerable risk being trapped in disadvantage.

The law fails to stop rogue landlords.


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Disabled people can be more than £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit

Friday 26th October 2018

Universal Credit could leave some single disabled people more than £300 a month worse off compared to the previous system, research from Citizens Advice reveals.

In its new report, Universal Credit for Single Disabled People, Citizens Advice reveals a significant drop in financial support for single disabled people in a range of circumstances.

This includes losses that can be more than £300 a month for working disabled people because of flaws in the design of the new benefit. The Work Allowance is meant to improve work incentives for disabled people in Universal Credit.

However, in practice, the Work Allowance can only be accessed through the Work Capability Assessment, which gives benefits awards to people unable to work, rather than for disabled people who can work. This creates the situation where a worker must be assessed as not fit for work to receive targeted in-work support.

The report shows disabled people will lose out in many ways:

  • Working disabled people on Universal Credit could be more than £300 per month worse off because they struggle to access the Work Allowance while in work.

  • Working disabled people who do get the Work Allowance could be more than £200 per month worse off due to weaker support from the Work Allowance when compared to support for disabled workers in Tax Credits.

  • Disabled people who can only do limited work have their benefit reduced after working just 6 hours a week at the minimum wage if they have housing costs, rather than 16 hours a week in the previous system. This means somebody working 12 hours a week can be over £100 a month worse off.

  • People without a carer and unable to work who make a new Universal Credit claim can be £180 a month worse off because the Severe Disability Premium was removed.

Universal Credit is the government’s flagship welfare programme that rolls 6 legacy benefits – such as Tax Credits and Employment and Support Allowance – into one monthly payment.

Citizens Advice has looked extensively at the effects of the new system including recent reports on problems making a claimand work incentives.

This latest report from the charity finds that Universal Credit has brought some improvements by simplifying the benefits system and removing “cliff edges”, where some people lose large chunks of income if they work just a few more hours.

However, Citizens Advice says the government – which wants 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027 – must increase financial help and improve work incentives for disabled people and those with health conditions.

It is calling on the government to make changes to the design of Universal Credit to make sure disabled people aren’t penalised when they claim the new benefit.

Citizens Advice identifies four things the government should consider improving in Universal Credit for disabled people and those with health conditions:

  • Ensure working people receive targeted in-work financial support if they are disabled or have a health condition.

  • Ensure disabled people with a Limited Capability for Work are able to trial part-time work without facing a significant penalty in their benefits.

  • Review the removal of the Limited Capability for Work element, worth £29 a week, and the introduction of a personal support package.

  • Introduce targeted financial support through a self-care element for disabled people who live alone without an adult carer.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Some disabled people will be unfairly disadvantaged under Universal Credit.

“Working disabled people need to prove they are unfit to work to get support meant for them. This goes against the government’s aim to support a million disabled people into work.

“Even when disabled people do get the support meant for them under Universal Credit, whether they are in work or not, they can be hundreds of pounds worse off a month than the previous system. This is money people desperately need to cover their bills.

“The government needs to address this and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under Universal Credit.”


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Government “must make changes” to Universal Credit, Citizens Advice says

Friday 26th October 2018

Responding to news that the government is set to pause the rollout of Universal Credit, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Today’s news suggests the government recognises Universal Credit has serious problems that must be fixed before tens of thousands more people are moved onto the new benefit.

“If implemented, the measures set out in the leaked document could reduce the risk of greater hardship as a result of moving onto the benefit.

“But Universal Credit is a complex system, and these measures alone will not solve all of the problems. The government must make changes to ensure no one is left without enough to get by.”


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There are 3 big questions the government needs to answer about Universal Credit

 

 

Friday 12 October 2018

Political parties, think tanks and charities continue to debate the future of Universal Credit. Despite the proposed solutions often being radically different, there’s a fairly broad consensus that more changes need to be made.

Once the rollout is complete, 7 million households will receive the new benefit. It has to work for everyone. Our evidence shows significant challenges remain — and we’ve helped 150,000 people with Universal Credit since its creation.

With the Budget rapidly approaching, and new legislation being drafted to move 3 million people from the old benefits system to Universal Credit, the government has some big decisions to make.

3 big questions the government must answer

There are currently just over a million people on Universal Credit. From January, the government intends to start the final and biggest phase of the rollout — moving people currently claiming legacy benefits (like Tax Credits and Employment and Support Allowance) over to the new benefit.

This process (called ‘managed migration’) will affect nearly 3 million people — a third (36%) of whom have a disability or long-term health condition. Votes need to pass in both the Commons and the Lords for this to happen.

This presents many questions, but 3 stand out:

1. Is UC ready to take on more people — in both design and delivery?

The government has made improvements to the delivery of Universal Credit. But our evidence leads us to the conclusion that further improvements must be made to the system, before tens of thousands more people are asked to move to the new benefit through managed migration.

Universal Credit must be designed and delivered to meet the needs of people with widely varied circumstances.

This means fixing known delivery problems, preventing people experiencing hardship — because large deductions are taken out of their Universal Credit to repay debts — and speeding up the implementation of things like the Landlord Portal, which simplifies the process for evidencing housing costs.

It also means revisiting bigger design decisions — like whether a monthly assessment of entitlement is the right answer for everybody. Many people don’t get paid or budget in this way. Payment flexibilities — like rent paid directly to landlords rather than tenants, or more frequent payments — are welcome. But even with increased awareness of these options, they don’t fully solve the problems.

It’s essential UC design and delivery works for groups with more complex needs, like those with a disability or health problem. Payment timeliness is particularly bad for this group. Beyond questions of the financial value, Universal Credit’s design works well for a lot of people, particularly for those who previously had to navigate multiple benefits. But, for managed migration to work that’s not enough — it has to work for everyone.

UC also needs transparent performance indicators, clear breaks in rollout, and milestones to check its readiness before moving more people on to the benefit.

2. Does UC give people enough financial support?

In a decade which has seen no real pay growth, and at a time when families are increasingly struggling to pay their essential bills, we continue to believethe government should reassess the cuts announced 3 years ago.

Some of the proposed cuts to Tax Credits, reversed in 2015, are still baked into Universal Credit. There are transitional protections to top up the incomes of those who move onto UC through managed migration, but this won’t help families making a new claim, or whose circumstances change.

Of course, transitional protections are just that — they are time-limited, and don’t address the deeper question of whether UC covers the cost of living.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation has shown there are 2.2 million people who gain and 3.2 million people who lose out from UC.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has reportedly warned colleagues that half of lone parents and about two-thirds of working-age couples with children would lose the equivalent of £200 a month. Our analysis shows that some other groups also face significant losses, including:

  • Self-employed people with fluctuating incomes can be entitled to hundreds of pounds a year less in UC compared to directly employed counterparts with identical annual earnings.
  • Working disabled people without children can be over £200 a month worse off on UC due to the loss of the disabled workers element that existed in Tax Credits.
  • Severely disabled people who live alone without an adult carer will get around £180 a month less in UC. The government has announced enhanced transitional protections for this group as it moves from legacy benefits. This is welcome but UC needs to introduce ongoing financial support for new and future claimants.

3. Will the process of managed migration run smoothly for people?

We believe the government needs to look again at its plans for managed migration. Even if changes are made to address the readiness and financial value of UC, managed migration is itself a huge administrative challenge.

Reform on the scale of UC, affecting so many families, has never happened before. Nearly 3 million people will move from legacy systems to UC through managed migration — a third of whom have a disability or long-term health condition. It is vital that people’s incomes are protected throughout.

Current draft plans don’t provide enough reassurance on this front, and we are discussing our concerns with government. As things stand, the process will require everyone to make a new UC claim — meaning the burden and risk of this change would fall largely on individuals.

We’re not currently confident that the right protections are in place for those who struggle with the process, or miss the deadline to make a new claim. There’s a real possibility some may see their legacy benefits stopped before they’ve started a new UC claim, leaving them with no income to live on.

With so many people struggling already with processes around legacy benefits, this is a major concern. For millions of people, benefit income — whether from the legacy system or UC — is what keeps roofs above heads and food on the table. All steps must be taken to limit these risks.

What’s next

These are big questions for government to answer, but if UC is to be a success it must act.

Arguably the current debate around UC is about more than this benefit. The government needs to take significant steps to restore trust in the way benefits are delivered. Cuts to the value of benefits, poor delivery of disability benefit assessments and questions about the appropriateness of conditionality go across both legacy benefits and Universal Credit.

Creating a benefit system that is simpler to access and easier for people to understand, the aims of UC, are aims we agree with. This debate has rightly become about what we expect our welfare benefits system to do, but also about what we expect in terms of delivery and fairness.


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CAB News 12 October 2018

Friday 12 October 2018

Our response to Ofgem’s Annual State of the Market report has received national pick up including by The Telegraph and BBC.

The report showed that the profits and market share of the six largest energy suppliers have fallen in the past year.

National

Energy

Competition drives down collective profits of Big Six

The Daily Telegraph, 12/10/2018, p.4, Jillian Ambrose

Responding to Ofgem’s Annual State of the Market report, Gillian Guy said the rising number of people opting for new energy suppliers “underlines why it’s so important that Ofgem tightens up its licensing rules”.

Gillian said: “We know that some suppliers entering the market aren’t prepared to provide adequate customer service, or aren’t financially robust enough to survive. Poor customer service often hits vulnerable customers the hardest. It needs to stop poorly prepared companies from entering the market, and take badly performing suppliers out of the market quicker.”

”Tens of thousands” disconnect their own power supplies

BBC (Web), 11/10/2018, Unattributed

Image result for power supply disconnect

The BBC quoted our research showing that tens of thousands of the UK’s poorest householders are disconnecting their own power supplies, because they cannot afford to top up their meters.
“Citizens Advice estimated that as many as 140,000 householders were going without gas or electricity, because they could not afford to top up their meters. Of those, 56% were left with cold homes, while 35% had insufficient light.”

Universal Credit

McVey buys silence with gag clause

The Times, 12/10/2018, p.9, Paul Morgan

DWP has confirmed to The Times that Citizens Advice has not signed a full contract with a publicity clause but had instead signed a grant agreement to help claimants through every step of making a Universal Credit claim. Gillian Guy was also quoted saying Citizens Advice had signed no restrictive clauses.

Gillian said: “Nothing in the agreement prevents us from continuing to raise our evidence publicly.”

Problems with universal credit

BBC Radio4, PM, 08/10/2018, 17:15:27, 5:0

Kayley Hignell, Head of Families, Welfare and Work was interviewed about the issues we’re seeing with universal credit and how the government should address these.

Kayley said: “The people we see are people who are having a problem with universal credit. There are people who are having a positive experience or finding it OK but it has to work for everyone. This benefit covers people in so many different situations and when things go wrong they are absolutely terrible in terms of the consequences. It’s unacceptable to have a benefit system that can leave people in these situations.”

Do energy suppliers treat complaints too casually?

Utility Week (Web), 11/10/2018, Unattributed

Figures in the Ofgem report show that only a third of customers who make a complaint are happy with the response they get from their supplier. Gillian Guy, chief executive at Citizens Advice, agreed that while some improvements have been made, energy suppliers still have a lot more work to do to when it comes to complaint handling processes.

Gillian said: “Customers need to have confidence that when something goes wrong, their supplier will deal with it. [This survey] shows this isn’t the case. While some improvements have been made, it’s simply not good enough that only a third of customers are happy with how their complaints are handled,” she said.

Mobile phone bills

BBC 1, Rip Off Britain, 08/10/2018, 09:33:12, 5:0

Our research into separating the cost of mobile contracts and handsets was referenced in yesterday’s Rip off Britain episode.
“Research by Citizens Advice suggests that around four million people have been charged for a handset that they’ve already bought. The average extra cost is reckoned to be £22 a month – more for the latest smartphones. And, almost a quarter of over 65s were found to have stayed on their contract once their initial one had ended. If this had continued for a year, they could have faced unnecessary charges of up to £264.

In other news

More than a million people in the UK live in “food deserts” with limited access to affordable fresh food.

Report commissioned by ministers recommended a 32% salary pay rise for High Court judges.

A Guardian investigation suggests hundreds of vulnerable immigrants are being detained indefinitely.


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Citizens Advice to provide support to Universal Support claimants

 

Friday 5th October 2018

Citizens Advice responds to the announcement today from the Department of Work and Pensions that it will help claimants through every step of making a Universal Credit claim.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We offer independent and confidential advice to millions of people every year, and have already helped nearly 150,000 people with Universal Credit. We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people struggle to make a claim and their payments are delayed.

“We welcome the opportunity to provide even more people with the help they need with Universal Credit, and deliver a consistent service through the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales.

“Delivering this service will give us even greater insight into the Universal Credit system. We’ll continue to share our evidence with the government to help make sure Universal Credit works for everyone.”