A right wing think tank reckons that most claimants are coping well with Universal Credit – but that more can be done to improve things.
Bright Blue, which calls itself ‘an independent think tank for liberal conservatism’, has published a report based on 40 ‘depth interviews’, whatever they are, with ‘a broadly representative sample of current claimants in England’.
‘Helping Hand? Improving Universal Credit’ concludes that ‘most claimants are coping with and adapting to UC’ and that there are ‘positive experiences, especially with work coaches’.
Eyebrow-raisingly, the think tank says that its interviewees commonly described UC as ‘helpful, straightforward, smooth and easy’.
However, apparently it’s not all good as Bright Blue concedes that a ‘significant minority of claimants are struggling with certain key design features such as the online nature…and monthly payment in arrears, either initially or in the long-term’.
The report goes on to say that the biggest challenge claimants face is ‘the initial waiting period of at least five weeks, which most claimants in fact struggle with’, while ‘a clear majority’ of interviewees ‘felt that the housing element of UC should be the reverse of the new status quo and be paid directly to landlords’.
So, what does the think tank recommend? Among other things, new claimants should receive a one-off upfront ‘helping hand’ payment, equal to 25% of their estimated initial UC award.
Meanwhile, ‘claimant commitments should be rewritten to include obligations of individuals and institutions that support UC claimants. If these obligations are not met, Independent Case Examiners should determine whether compensation to claimants is paid in their next UC award.’
Additionally, the government should ‘introduce a live chat facility within online UC accounts, so claimants can get their queries and problems addressed almost anytime and anywhere’.
Bright Blue director, Ryan Shorthouse, said: ‘Universal Credit has plenty of potential. A majority of claimants are coping with and adapting to Universal Credit. There are positive experiences with work coaches. And there are positive attitudes too: especially towards the single payment model and the use of conditionality.
‘However, as it has gone from idea to implementation, the initial widespread support Universal Credit enjoyed has dissipated. Despite welcome improvements made by the Government in recent years, there are too many examples and too much evidence of significant hardship experienced by a sizable minority of those on Universal Credit.’
Anyway, the report’s press release is here which has far more detail in it than I’ve shared.