Martin Lewis warns vulnerable Brits are missing out on Universal Credit as they struggle to wade through paperwork
MARTIN Lewis has warned vulnerable Brits are missing out on Universal Credit because of “complex” paperwork needed for claims.
His charity, The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, estimated around 1.3million people with high levels of mental distress are applying for Universal Credit.
But due to the system’s “design flaws”, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people may be struggling to apply for payments and manage their claims.
This is because many people with common symptoms of mental health problems, such as difficulty in understanding complex information and remembering appointments, are struggling with the tricky admin required.
It means they are at risk of having their benefits cut, or losing out on the money they are entitled to altogether, the charity said.
In a survey of 230 people with mental health problems carried out by Martin’s charity, over half (57%) said they needed help from family or friends to manage payments.
Over a quarter (27%) said they always or often needed help.
But because of the detailed information the Department for Work and Pensions needs to allow claimants to nominate someone else to help out, only one in 10 have managed to get the support they need.
The DWP needs details of every task those claiming need help with and a list of information they intend to share with a helper before they can grant permission.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
It also doesn’t advertise that claimants can nominate someone to help them manage their account in the first place.
The charity has warned that the way the system currently works means vulnerable Brits are being “set up to fail”.
Martin, who is chairman of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, called for the claims process to be simplified and for clearer advice on what people need to do to get the help they need.
He said: “People who are entitled to Universal Credit, sometimes due to mental health problems, which impact their ability to fill in forms or process complex information, are allowed to nominate someone to help them with the admin needed to keep receiving benefits.
"Yet to do that, they must go through a complex process which requires them to do the exact things they need help with in the first place.
“If they don't manage it, they ultimately risk being sanctioned or losing all financial help.
"I don't believe this is a deliberate attempt to set people up to fail. Yet that is the practical outcome for some.”
The charity’s survey also showed that vulnerable claimants are struggling to get help over the phone from the DWP if they have an issue with their claim.
More than half (54%) of claimants with mental health problems said they had severe difficulties using the phone, which would spark panic attacks, heart palpitations and anxiety.
One adult who took part in the survey, called Gary, said he found the process of managing his claims “horrendous” and that he finds it “hard to talk” to people.
Martin said the government needs to act now to fix the problems many claimants face.
“This is one Universal Credit problem the Government can easily fix, by providing people with the right advice on how to nominate a loved one to help them, and by making the process to do it much easier, simpler and user-friendly,” he said.
It's not the only issue Universal Credit claimants have come up against recently.
Earlier this month, Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the £20 a week boost claimants have received since April will be axed by winter.
Plus, we revealed last week that a pot of emergency cash for struggling Brits on Universal Credit has been slashed by £3million in a year.
A freedom of information request by The Sun found that the Flexible Support Fund (FSF) shrunk from £40.7million in the 2018/19 tax year to £37.8million the following year.
One million Brits could have benefit payments stopped including Universal Credit unless they act now.
What is a Universal Credit advance payment? Here's how to apply and pay it back.
Universal Credit's tax on workers should be cut to help struggling Brits back into employment, a new think tank report has said.
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