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Universal Credit will “steamroll vulnerable people into poverty” concludes new Salvation Army research

13 February 2020

New research by The Salvation Army has shown that millions of people risk being unable to access their benefits due to faults in the Universal Credit system.

Researchers interviewed Salvation Army service users and found 85% of people surveyed struggled to complete their claim.

Of these, nearly two thirds (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 shows that 20% of Universal Credit claims are dropped before they are completed. The Salvation Army is warning that there is now overwhelming evidence that unless the Government provides more support for people to apply, vulnerable people will struggle to access their benefits.

Rebecca Keating Director of Employment Services at The Salvation Army said:

“Rolling out Universal Credit in its current form will steamroll vulnerable people into poverty but the Government has time to turn this around by accepting our recommendations and making it easier to apply.

Millions of people need extra support accessing a computer or understanding how to fill in complicated online forms. 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.”

The Salvation Army is calling for the following improvements to be made to the system to ensure the most vulnerable don’t find themselves locked out of the system:

  • Better identification of vulnerable people and those with mental health issues so they have tailored support to move onto Universal Credit.  
  • Investment to ensure smaller caseloads for Jobcentre Work Coaches so they have more time to properly identify and support clients who need extra help.  
  • More partnership working between Jobcentres and organisations like The Salvation Army, which has expertise in helping vulnerable people into work, including digital and budgeting support.  
  • Claimant Commitments to be personalised so that specific needs around issues like homelessness and domestic abuse are taken into account and people get the right support to help them find a job and stay in it.

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

“DR UK has been one of many charities and other organisations warning that some disabled people are at risk of digital exclusion from Universal Credit.

Although it is possible to make a telephone claim for Universal Credit it is very difficult to do. It is impossible to break free of its digital system once a digital claim has been made.”

The Salvation Army’s report Understanding Benefits and Mental Health: A national rethink on how government supports vulnerable people moving onto Universal Credit is available @ salvationarmy.org.uk.