Banbury charity’s concerns over Universal Credit

Andy Willis, from Banburyshire Advice Centre NNL-170731-111717001
Andy Willis, from Banburyshire Advice Centre NNL-170731-111717001

Andy Willis, chairman of Banburyshire Advice Centre (BAC), says the advice charity has ‘grave concerns’ about Universal Credit (UC) and feels its roll-out should be halted.

“It assumes people have good IT skills, access to computers and smart phones, that people can manage monthly payments and have enough savings to wait for the first payments,” he said.

“Up-front payments don’t help as they make future payments less. Monthly pay is not a reality for everyone; many low paid jobs are paid weekly and if someone becomes too ill to work this may be the first time they have had to manage monthly payments. The system cannot cope with anyone with unusual housing arrangements.

“The questions used on the application process are not always clear because of the use of double negatives and are written in jargon.

“Each company used for the ID has different questions. If a client can’t complete the process they aren’t allowed to go back to that ID company, they have to use another one. Some require clients to download an app. If they are unable to get their ID verified the job centre in theory can help but the first payments are delayed further.

“The benefit assumes people can budget and are responsible to pay rent on time but not everyone is capable of doing this due to mental health or learning difficulties.

“The application form has nowhere to declare if the individual is too ill to work and it assumes people can upload CVs and do activities to get back into work – not appropriate for people with chronic illnesses,” said Mr Willis.

“It is also assumed people have access to computers or can afford the internet or regular transport to libraries to access computers.

“Most clients would give up without our help as the system is complex. People struggle with all the passwords and we are not able to store such information.

“Even when a person’s ID has been verified by certain companies, the claimant still has to take the ID to the job centre. The process is very stressful and some people’s mental health gets worse because of it. People are getting into rent arrears. It is causing a headache for housing associations and huge stress on claimants for fear of losing their homes,” he said.

To read more about the charity’s operations see Banbury advice project helps find a way through the maze.