An Update on Universal Credit: Setbacks and plagued by more issues

If you receive money through the benefits system, then you’ve probably had cause for concern over the past few months about the new Universal Credit structure. As we’re sure you’re aware from our previous posts on it, Universal Credit were brought in to simplify the many previous strains of benefits into one simple and easy-to-understand system. However, for most of our clients, we have found it to be quite the opposite.

Many have been left confused and dismayed, some unaware of what they are now entitled to, while others have had their monthly amounts severely cut. Here at Hylton-Potts, we know how important it is to keep you up to speed with the system, so when we heard that the nationwide roll out of this new scheme had suffered yet further delays, we thought it vital that we put together this post on what this means for you.

According to the most recent reports, the scheme has once again suffered a setback in its implementation, meaning that overall, the full use of the system across the UK will not be in place until 2022 – five years behind the original projected date.

Since plans were first announced in 2013, the scheme has now had seven recalculations for its finishing date. While on the outset, ministers would have you think this would have a negative impact on claimants, in reality, this is far from true.

What do Universal Credit’s mean to me?

As we stated in an earlier article, some claimants throughout the UK actually stand to lose thousands under the new system, so the delays in rolling it out mean that those families will continue on a higher payment per month than they would have originally.

In fact, it was discovered by the Resolution Foundation thinktank earlier this year, that around 2.5 million families currently receiving working tax credits would be between £41 and £46 per week worse off under the Universal Credit system, as a result of the cuts introduced last year by the former chancellor, George Osborne.

In May of this year, the Guardian focused on how the new “simplified system” was nothing more than a “cost-cutting exercise”. The analysis by the thinktank, chaired by the former Conservative MP Lord Willetts, urged ministers to “reclaim” the troubled policy from the Treasury. It stated: “The suspicion is that Universal Credit has shifted from becoming a vehicle of genuine reform designed to improve jobs and earnings prospects for lower income workers, to a simple exercise in cost-cutting. Any shift must be reversed.”

The report also stated that most low-paid working families across the UK would be “detrimentally affected” by Treasury changes, despite other government policies that purport better living and earning standards, such as the “national living wage”, cuts to income tax, and extra free childcare for three and four-year-olds.

What should I do?

It’s vital that you don’t miss out on crucial funds that could help you, your partner and children throughout these turbulent economic times, so we’d recommend that you get in touch with us as soon as possible to find out exactly what you are entitled to before the Universal Credit system is fully rolled out.

However, it is inevitable over the coming years that the new structure will come into place for everyone, so it’s important to know the basics. We would always recommend that you contact us for advice first, but you can apply online for Universal Credit, although you may be required to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus.

If your application is successful, you’ll get your first payment around six weeks after applying online, but you must bear in mind that Universal Credit is paid differently from other benefits. It is paid once a month, usually into your bank, building society or credit union account, and if you live with your partner and you both claim for it, you’ll receive a single payment that covers you both.

If you don’t have a bank account or cannot open one, contact your work coach, but it may be worth investigating why you are having a difficult time opening one. It is not beyond the realms of possibility for the very few that even the most basic of bank accounts and schemes could be out of reach for the strangest of reasons that could be easily cleared up.

For example, earlier this year, the Telegraph reported how Sarah Lovesey spent the past two years being shunned by every bank in Britain, all because of the fact that her details had been incorrectly logged on the Cifas national fraud register by Lloyds Bank. She was even turned down for the most basic Post Office bank account, set up specifically to help the “unbanked”.

You never know what boxes have been checked or errors have been made within a banking system that could put a black mark against your name. It is always better to get in touch with the experts if you think something could be wrong with your records, but you can get more information on Universal Credit payments without a bank or building society account by clicking here.

The next steps

The world of benefits and Universal Credit can be a confusing one, and in these uncertain times it can be difficult to get your head around, but that’s why we are here. Our experts are well versed at navigating the tricky terms and language used, so whether you’ve received a letter of investigation about benefit fraud, or if you think you could be missing out on vital payments that could ease your living situation and want to know more, get in touch.

Our team understand the intricacies of benefit law, and they’ll be more than happy to explain everything in a calm and straight-forward manner. Whatever your situation, make sure you don’t leave it too late to contact us. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or get in touch via email at [email protected].

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