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1.3 million people in poor mental health who need help with Universal Credit are being “Set Up To Fail”

26 May 2021

New research by the charity Money and Mental Health Institute (MMHI) says around 1.3 million Disabled people experiencing high levels of mental distress may struggle to get the support they need from loved ones to manage their Universal Credit accounts and avoid sanctions.

The MMHI says that many people with common symptoms of mental health problems - such as difficulties understanding complex information and remembering appointments - struggle to deal with the ongoing admin and bureaucracy required to get Universal Credit payments.

This includes filling in detailed forms, dealing with correspondence from the DWP and appealing decisions about their benefits.

The new report shows that when people with mental health problems try to get help from a loved one to manage all this admin, the Universal Credit system sets them up to fail.

It highlights that in order to nominate someone to support them, they have to navigate similarly complex and unclear processes to those that they were trying to get help with in the first place.

In a survey of over 230 people with mental health problems who have claimed Universal Credit:

  • over half (57%) said they have needed help from family or friends to manage their Universal Credit account
  • just over a quarter said they need that help always or often (27%)
  • and yet only one in ten has managed to give permission for someone to help regularly (10%).

Without support, says MMHI, people are at substantially higher risk of being sanctioned by the DWP, and some people are being cut off from Universal Credit altogether.

The MMHI says that, while they may serve the needs of a small group of people, appointeeship will not be appropriate for the vast majority of people with mental health problems “as they are not based on principles of empowerment and do not lend themselves to shared decision-making”.

The charity is calling on the Government to make it easier for people with mental health problems to get help with managing their Universal Credit, by making changes including:

  • Providing people with clearer advice on what information they need to share with the DWP to get support from a loved one, and the correct process for doing so through the Universal Credit website.
  • Making this online process much more accessible and user-friendly, by adding prompts and drop down menus to guide people 
  • Giving people more flexible options to share information about their Universal Credit account with loved ones – for example, the option to give a friend or relative view-only access to your Universal Credit account, or to allow loved ones to get notifications about your account.

The MMHI explains why it has launched a new campaign and petition:

“Our new research shows 100,000s of people experiencing high levels of mental distress may struggle to get the support they need from loved ones to manage their Universal Credit accounts and avoid sanctions.

That’s because needless flaws in the Universal Credit system make it too hard for people to nominate someone to help them. The system sets people up to fail when they need support. 

These problems are leaving people at risk of being cut off from Universal Credit during the pandemic, and are causing anguish for many.

This is one problem with Universal Credit that the government can easily fix. We’re calling on it to act now, so that anyone who needs help with Universal Credit can get it — instead of being #SetUpToFail.

Read more about these issues here, and sign our petition calling on government to act!”

The MMHI report Set Up to Fail is available from moneyandmentalhealth.org