Sheffield families 'at risk' waiting 'six weeks or more' for Universal Credit payments

Universal Credit is causing problems for people in Sheffield
Universal Credit is causing problems for people in Sheffield

Universal Credit is putting people’s financial security 'at risk' as people in Sheffield wait 'six weeks or more' for their first payment, according to a leading charity.

Universal Credit is putting people’s financial security 'at risk' as people in Sheffield wait 'six weeks or more' for their first payment, according to a leading charity.

Andy Buck, chief executive of Citizens Advice Sheffield

Andy Buck, chief executive of Citizens Advice Sheffield

Many people have already turned to Citizens Advice Sheffield for help with 'live service' of Universal Credit, a temporary version of the benefit available to people in the area with straightforward claims.

The Sheffield office, based in Rockingham Street in the city centre said one 20-year-old woman with anxiety and depression waited nine-weeks for her first payment and had to rely on a foodbank for help.

Introduced in 2013, Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work.

It replaces some of the benefits and tax credits such as; housing benefit, child tax credit, income support, working tax credit and job seekers' allowance.

The charity says the numbers struggling in Sheffield 'will grow rapidly' from July 2018, when 'full service' arrives, meaning anyone who would previously have claimed one of the old benefits - such as tax credits or housing benefit- has to apply for Universal Credit.

By 2022 Universal Credit will affect 69,000 households across Sheffield.

Andy Buck, chief executive of Citizens Advice Sheffield said: “The principles behind Universal Credit are sound, but a mix of flaws in how the benefit was designed and problems with how it is being delivered is leaving many people’s finances in tatters.

“We’re already helping many people across Sheffield who are having problems with Universal Credit, and we are concerned this will rise significantly from July 2018. By 2022 it will affect thousands of households across the city.

“If the government doesn’t fix significant problems with Universal Credit then many families across Sheffield may be put at financial risk, which can in turn put huge pressure on other local services such as health, housing and social care.

“If anyone does run into problems with Universal Credit, don’t hesitate to contact Citizens Advice Sheffield for help.”

A DWP spokesman said under Universal Credit people were moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

"Universal Credit is designed to mirror the way many people in work are paid and we have budgeting advice and benefit advances available for anyone who needs extra help.

"The vast majority of claimants have told us they are satisfied with Universal Credit.

"We are rolling out Universal Credit in a gradual, safe and secure way and in the rare cases where issues arise, we work closely with local authorities and landlords to support people when they need it."