Very few people to date have been through the process of claiming Universal Credit. One of the housing associations engaged in the early pilots of Universal Credit reports some depressing experiences. First Choice Homes Oldham is reporting that there have been multiple failings in the new system:
• 55% found the period between making their UC claim and receiving their first payment very difficult. 44% managed financially by borrowing and 18% had taken out a pay day loan. …
• 48% did not know they could apply for an advance payment for UC. 43% who did know about this were informed too late to be able to claim advanced payment or said that their application took too long to process leading to them missing their deadline.
• 37% did not receive their payment on the same day each month, making budgeting even more difficult.
The long delays between claiming and first payment made the first part of this inevitable. The absurd arrangement where paydays are based on the date of the claim, rather than a fixed day in the month, is the root of the last of these problems. The outcome, all too predictably, is that some tenants have been forced into debt, and others said it had forced them to face “stark choices over heating or eating”.