Universal Credit Support Network
The grant will consolidate and develop strong and sustainable voluntary sector partnerships so vulnerable local residents experiencing problems with Universal Credit can be better helped and supported. Comprising three local voluntary sector agencies, Citizens Advice Southwark (as lead partner), Community Southwark and Southwark Law Centre, the project will ensure that voluntary and community agencies are better supported and better able to effectively refer local residents for advice, and that frontline advisers are able to provide a high quality of advice on Universal Credit and related issues, thereby building capacity in the voluntary and community sector to mitigate the impact of Universal Credit.
Universal Credit Mitigation Project
Universal Credit was introduced to some Southwark claimants in early 2017, with full roll-out starting in September. Administration problems resulted in financial and emotional stress for many claimants, and a surge in demand on advice agencies who were struggling to keep up. The Universal Credit Mitigation Project was developed by United St Saviour’s in discussion with key local agencies. It invested additional funds into a consortium of local agencies over the critical 12 months of roll-out. Southwark Law Centre and Citizens Advice Southwark were able to increase advice and support available. Research was conducted by Advising Communities into how different groups are affected by Universal Credit, and the most effective ways of supporting them. This involved interviews with 143 claimants and 72 local agencies affected by the introduction of UC and a report published.
- Significant numbers of UC claimants are struggling. The complexities and administrative challenges of the new system are leading to widespread emotional and financial stress, with vulnerable groups particularly affected.
- The impact on the voluntary sector is huge. Claimants are turning to the already stretched local voluntary sector agencies for support and advice.
- Personal, holistic and properly resourced support for claimants, that takes into account needs such as language and IT capabilities, is critical if Universal Credit has any chance of success.
The research has been submitted as evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.