Universal Credit is the UK Government’s new benefits system. It rolls several in- and out-of-work benefits into one.
By 2022 it will replace benefits including Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Tax Credits. People will receive all their benefits in one monthly payment, including the payment intended to cover rent. This is happening gradually. More people are already receiving Universal Credit.
What needs to change
Across Great Britain we are calling on the government to:
- Ensure the right financial support is available for people experiencing homelessness in the wait before they receive their first payment.
- Bring together homelessness services and the help provided through the benefit system. Read more about Universal Suport
- Improve the way they help homeless people find and keep work through Jobcentre Plus. Read more about Jobcentre Plus
We support the UK Government’s aim of simplifying the benefits system. But we are concerned that the new system is making life more difficult for homeless people and putting others at risk of losing their home. Homeless people are struggling to cope with the new system because it completely changes the way that benefits are paid. For example, it is paid a month in arrears meaning if people experiencing homelessness need financial support in the first month they have to pay it back. People also need to have a bank account and be able to use a computer. Those who already have somewhere to live and are not used to paying rent from a monthly budget are getting behind on their rent. We are worried about this leading to eviction and homelessness.
We are calling on the UK government to ensure the right financial support is available for people experiencing homelessness in the wait before they receive their first payment.
We also want the government to make sure Universal Credit is a way to support people experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of it, to be financially stable in the long-term.
We will watch closely to see how people experiencing homelessness are affected as Universal Credit is rolled out.
Briefings and responses:
- Response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into the Universal Credit rollout (Word) - March 2017
- Universal Credit: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) - March 2017
The government will help people to manage their Universal Credit claim through a scheme called Universal Support. So far a number of trials have been run with councils to support people who are not confident with IT or used to managing a monthly budget.
We are talking to the government about how Universal Support could be improved in the future. We think it could be a useful way of helping people with their housing problems.
Many councils do already help homeless people with their housing. In England councils are now required by a new law, the Homelessness Reduction Act, to do more. (See more on the Homelessness Reduction Act).
We think that the government could do a better job of bringing together homelessness services and the help provided through the benefit system.
Universal Credit is changing the way that Jobcentre Plus helps people look for work. This includes improving the relationship between Jobcentre Plus work coaches and the people they’re trying to help.
Universal Credit means that for the first time people will stay in touch with the jobcentre even once they’ve found work. They will be encouraged to work more hours or increase their wages, until they’re working full-time.
We are calling on the Westminster Government to make the most of this opportunity to improve the way they help people experiencing homelessness to find and keep work. We think a reformed Jobcentre Plus should work together with homelessness services to play a positive role in helping people back on their feet.
Read more about our work on employment support including Jobcentre Plus.