Millions at risk of Universal Credit ‘lock out’

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 per cent of people surveyed struggled to complete their claim. Of these, 60 per cent 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 charity is now 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. This means that millions could be left unable to buy food, pay their rent, and take care of their children.

The Salvation Army is calling for: 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; and 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.  

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.”