Universal Credit: The online problem

As the rollout date for the new Universal Credit approaches many benefits
claimants have expressed anxiety over using the online application system.
This is the first benefit that has to be applied for via an online form and
as it replaces a number of other benefits the changes will impact a large
proportion of our society.

Universal Credit Explained
The new Universal Credit benefit will be rolled out in October this year and
will act as an umbrella benefit that will replace several existing benefits
currently claimed by those on a low income or looking for work.

Universal Credit replaces Income Support, Child and Working Tax Credits,
Housing Benefit, income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance and income-related
Employment and Support Allowance. It will be paid as a single monthly
payment into the claimant`s bank account in the same way a salary would be
paid and has been introduced to make the benefits system simpler and promote
independence.

Potential Issues with the Online Claim Process
Universal Credit has been designed so that claimants can apply and manage
their claim online, which will be welcomed by many people as it gives and
up-to-date picture of their claim and provides more control for the
claimant.

The system will allow people to view their claim and see what stage their
application is at, while enabling them to update the Department for Work and
Pensions easily and quickly with any changes to their circumstances.

However, there are several potential drawbacks to the online application
process, which could cause anxiety, errors, feelings of isolation and
increased financial hardship for claimants.

The obvious issues include lack of IT experience and lack of access to a
computer, which would particularly affect those with additional support
needs and those on low incomes. These groups of people may feel excluded and
raise the question of why more choice hasn’t been factored into the design
of this new benefit.

Additionally, those whose first language is not English may struggle with an
online application system as claimants are likely to be making an
application on their own rather than sitting down with a member of staff at
the Jobcentre. This could lead to errors and confusion about what is being
asked of them, which could delay their claim and lead to an unnecessary
period of financial hardship.

The online system may promote independence and self-motivation, but as there
will be no trained member of staff assisting with the application if a
person makes a mistake it could be months or even years before it is
uncovered and rectified.

Mistakes could lead to claims being refused or overpayments being made and
then having to be repaid at some point in the future, so applicants are
likely to feel a sense of anxiety over whether they are using the online
application correctly and whether their awarded amount of benefit is
correct.

This lack of support will impact greatest on the most vulnerable in society
and risks creating a cloud of confusion similar to that seen when Employment
and Support Allowance was introduced in place of Incapacity Benefit and
Income Support.

This online system may even prevent those who struggle with computers or are
illiterate from claiming benefits they are entitled to because they are
ashamed to ask for help or don’t know where to turn for help.

Suggested Solutions
A DWP published document has responded to these concerns by stating that
support to make an online application will be offered to those who need it
in the form of a telephone assistance service or face-to-face support
locally.

These support services will either help claimants to use a computer or work
through the online form with them, which will be of great use to many
people. However, the availability of this support and how involved these
services will get in the event of any problems is not yet clear.

If you find yourself struggling with the new system do seek support from
your local Citizens Advice office or Jobcentre, who may be able to signpost
you to a source of assistance. Lastly, if you are struggling financially you
could access the free resources offered by Simply Finance such as
budgeting guides and debt advice.

10 Comments

  1. Adam Craymor says:

    It is indeed concerning that this new untried system is to be rolled out nationally when the teething problems have yet to be addressed in a way that will ensure the systems IT structure showed problems with the large numbers under testing .
    If the amount paid into an account is not correct will the claimant be able to claim for the banking costs incurred due to direct debit payments not being met or car insurance debits not covered leading to the claimants car being sized by police and a very large fine and resulting criminal record?.

    The biggest folly of all will be to have claimants handling large sums of money over 28 days and may require budgeting advice due to many having one day in a week with no money but this will lead to 4 days without any money if paid monthly.

    As I work in the social services sector I can foresee some claimants not coping at all with this change and the new housing benefit changes to be introduced from April 2013 will see claimants handling even more money to hand over to landlords as payments will be paid top the claimant to pass on to the private landlord.

    Benefit reductions resulting from housing benefit under the under occupation rules will see family’s moving home or area or the break up of the family unit and more than likely the children entering the care system so indeed saving £20 a week for this government will for an average of two children cost £600 per child every week and this will not include the administration/family court/social workers/ costs
    We are expecting a deluge of children this year near to Christmas as the cuts bite and local authorities will not be able to cover the costs themselves yet the real costs will be paid for by the children and the poor and the weak so one needs to ask if this is down to cuts or an ideology driven by the few over the many.

    Reply
  2. Becky says:

    I think this is going to be a bad thing for people on benefits especially those who will now been in receipt of there housing benefit they are more than likely going to end up in more financial difficulty ie people who have drug / drink problems will use this money to sustaine there habits and lose there homes . I think this government is going to cause more poverty because of this new system , people should be able to still have there housing allowance paid directly to there landlords . This new system will end up putting more people on the streets

    Reply
  3. julie says:

    how are we supposed to manage our first month if its to be paid monthly in arrears this means we will be without money for 4 wks how are we meant to buy food an paybills most families theese days live wk to wk and will not manage without money that 1st month

    Reply
  4. Angie says:

    I suffer bad anxiety as it is.I struggled yesterday with the filling in questions and I don’t know if iv done it correctly.Its ridiculas

    Reply
  5. Cliff says:

    I have gone through the proccess of filling out the online form twice now in two days, and have come accross the same problem both times.
    the problem is when I get to the end and click the link to the delcaration to confirm i understand everything and have filled the form out truthfully .. it goes to the next screen saying System unavailable…Sorry the system is currently unavailable.
    please try again later.

    Please tell me how much later you would like me to try, it is 2.34 in the AM.

    I wonder is this something I need to do in normal working hours?

    Reply
  6. Cliff says:

    Fortunatly I took screen shots of the whole progress, so I am hoping I can show this to them and claim a back dated paymment to the date I filled the form out thee first time

    Reply
  7. Jade Heirs says:

    I have been trying to claim Universal Credit since i got paid off, been through application process twice now, and both times my local Jobcentre has not contacted me with my first appointment. I have also had to go through the form over the phone as no matter what I try it won’t let me fill out the part where i put the name of the bank account holder. It keeps saying there’s errors with the field no matter what I put in.

    Reply
  8. Ve says:

    I finally fill in all the paperwork for universal credit and it won’t let me put my name as the bank holder. Any advice?

    Reply
  9. Grumbledook says:

    If it won’t accept your bank account name try using all uppercase letters – don’t know why!

    Reply
  10. Spiny says:

    Thanks Grumbledook! Been trying to apply online for a week now with no success because the site wouldn’t let me fill in my bank account owner name, so frustrating! Finally it’s gone through after using all caps lock, but since you don’t get paid the first 7 days it means I’ve missed out on a weeks pay 🙁 terrible flaw in the system!!

    Reply

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