What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a social security benefit brought in to replace the six benefits and tax credits formerly known as: income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income based Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support.
Why is it a problem?
Universal Credit was intended to be more generous to claimants but now, as a result of cuts it is significantly less generous, leaving many worse off when they move on to it than they were under previous benefits systems. Add to that a minimum six-week wait because Universal Credit is based on how much money you have each month. It is paid in arrears, people claiming the benefit receive money for the last month worked, not for the month ahead. Universal Credit also relies heavily on its claimants being able to budget monthly and plan ahead so bills are paid on time. This leaves poorer claimants at a heightened risk of hunger, debt and rent arrears, ill-health and homelessness. Foodbanks, for example, have reported that demand for charity food goes up significantly when universal credit is introduced into the local area.
Who gets the payment?
Universal credit gets paid in one lump sum to one person in the household. Womens Refuge frontline staff have told us of numerous cases in which a perpetrator of abuse has had Universal Credit paid into his bank account and then used this money as a tool of coercive control. Some women disclosed to staff that they have had to beg their partner for money to feed their children. One survivor reported that she had not been allowed to handle any money since her benefits had transitioned over to Universal Credit.
Housing benefit used to get paid directly to Landlords (private, council and housing association). These landlords are now worried about the level of rent arrears racked up by tenants on Universal Credit and many private landlords say they will no longer rent to Universal Credit claimants because the risk of arrears is too high. And what about the individual with addiction who has Universal Credit paid into his or her account?
This thought brings me back to one of The Hygiene Bank’s key values: to be non-judgemental of recipient families. It doesn’t matter why someone is in the situation they are in, or where ‘blame’ should be apportioned, the impact of poverty is suffering….. children suffering.
Taken from report by leading mental health charity Mind and anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust