Does the welfare system help prevent and support people out of homelessness? Our research aims to help find out.
Fair welfare support
Welfare support plays a vital role when it comes to preventing and tackling homelessness.
If you have lost your job, welfare support can prevent you ending up on the streets. While you look for work, welfare support provides an income to help you survive. If you are unable to work, welfare support can help cover the basic necessities of living. Unsurprisingly, many people who have experienced homelessness do receive welfare support.
Since May 2016, Government have rolled out Universal Credit (UC) across the UK and it is now available in all areas. This means that, unless you have an exisiting benefit claim, you will have to claim UC when you need welfare support. However, we know from the people who use our members' services that UC can be problematic for many people in a number of ways.
With some exceptions, housing benefit has been replaced by the housing element of UC. In addition, when a claim for UC is made, claimants must wait for five weeks before receiving their first payment. Although it is possible to apply for and receive an advance payment of UC, this has to be paid back. The rate of repayment can be as high as 30 per cent of a UC monthly payment.
Once applied for and awarded, a UC claim has to be managed online. Our members tell us that many of the people they work with simply aren't able to do this. This may be becuase they don't have ready access to the internet, have little experience of digital communication or have limited literacy skills. This particularly problematic, as those who aren't able to manage their claims can be sanctioned, that is, receive no UC payments for a set period of time (in some cases, UC is reduced by 60 per cent, rather than 100 per cent).
These UC restrictions mean that many people, including those who use our members' services, are left in hardship and fall into debt.
We are working for welfare support which:
- prevents homelessness
- helps individuals to get back on their feet
- does not disadvantage vulnerable people
- works with homelessness charities to provide the best support possible
We already know UC can be problematic. But we need to find out more and identify practical solutions. This is why we are working with members, particularly in London, to gather evidence and and ideas for delivery of UC in a way that works for people experiencing homelessness. If you or the people you work with have experience of claiming UC and want to tell us about it or you have ideas about how UC might work more effictively for people experiencing homelessness, please let us know via our survey.
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