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People on universal credit struggle to pay for housing


People on Universal Credit helped by Citizens Advice Westminster still struggle to pay for housing as they wait for payment
Citizens Advice Westminster says people they help with Universal Credit are still struggling to pay for the roof over their heads, despite the wait for their first payment being reduced from 6 weeks to 5.
It comes as national Citizens Advice revealed 1 in 2 Universal Credit claimants the charity helped nationally were in rent arrears or fell behind on their mortgage payments during the wait for first payment.
This was the same number as when the wait for the first payment was longer.
Citizens Advice Westminster has helped 399 people with problems relating to Universal Credit since the new benefit was rolled out in the area in June 2018.
One Citizens Advice Westminster adviser helped a single mother living in a City West Homes property who had fallen into rent arrears since being on Universal Credit. The woman’s monthly Universal Credit Housing Element of £294.69 did not even cover the cost of half of her monthly rent, which meant that she had to use her monthly Universal Credit Standard Allowance of £317.82, which is intended to cover her living costs, to pay the remaining rent. This Standard Allowance was being further depleted because a monthly deduction of £31.78 was also being made and paid to the landlord towards her rent arrears. As a result, the client was struggling to survive, and was also in electricity arrears with her current electricity provider.
The national charity’s report, Managing Money on Universal Credit, found that following changes by Government in 2017, fewer people are falling behind on their bills or going without essentials during the wait period.
Payment timeliness has improved – now 1 in 6 people are not paid in full and on time, while previously it was 1 in 4. But too many people are still struggling.
Citizens Advice Westminster is calling on the government to make Universal Credit far more flexible to fit around people’s lives and to make sure people have enough money to live on.
It also wants Alternative Payment Arrangements to be more widely available, allowing for rent to be paid direct to a landlord, more frequent payments, and a payment to go to both members of a couple.
Shirley Springer, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Westminster, said:
“People claiming Universal Credit are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads during the wait for their first payment.
“Things have improved for many people since changes were made to the first payment waiting period, but they don’t go far enough.
“Universal Credit must continue to be reformed until it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on.”

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