Three key changes needed to prevent Universal Credit plans marginalising homeless people further

31 July 2012

St Mungo's is asking for three key changes to the Universal Credit regulations to prevent homeless people from being further marginalised by benefit changes.

The charity has submitted its response to the Universal Credit regulation consulation by the Social Security Advisory Committee, which closed last week.

The response highlighted three main changes St Mungo's would like to see happen:

  • Claimants who live in supported accommodation should have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to the landlord, in order to protect their housing, and for their own personal safety. Having large monthly sums paid directly into personal accounts could be too much for some people unused to budgeting, and perhaps tackling alcohol or drug issues, with non-payment of rent putting their accommodation at risk.
  • An alternative to 'digital by default'. People with needs around literacy, or who find it difficult to use computers, will need assistance to make digital claims. This assistance should be easy to access and people who cannot maintain digital claims should not be expected to do so. There must be alternatives in place as well as robust mechanisms for identifying those who need them. Alternatives could include a freephone number (free from mobiles too) and face to face meetings, as not regularly checking your email account could lead to a sanction, should you miss an appointment because you didn't know about it.
  • Flexibility around service charges under Universal Credit about eligible and ineligible charges for supported accommodation. Service charges are higher in supported accommodation for a good reason and claimants should not be made to pay for these costs themselves. 

St Mungo's has also highlighted that the regulations focus much more strongly on punitive measures rather than how to support individuals back into employment. 

Mike McCall, St Mungo's Executive Director of Operations,said: "The aim of Universal Credit is to make work pay and combat worklessness and poverty. We support that aim. We talked to our residents and staff, however, about the proposed regulations and there were major concerns that some of the measures, particularly around sanctions, would have a severe impact on the housing and recovery of the clients we work with.

"We urge the Government to adopt these three changes to safeguard those who have fallen through safety nets already but who, with support, can work towards a home, a job, a future. If not, we are gravely concerned that people who are already marginalised may slip yet further into destitution."

ENDS

Read St Mungo's full response to the SSAC consultation on Universal Credit, and a blog outlining more about the issues. 

And

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