Benefits recipients are still struggling to cover housing costs
People claiming Universal Credit are still struggling to pay for the roof over their heads, despite the wait for their first payment being reduced from six weeks to five, said Citizens Advice.
Data from the charity showed that one in two people were in rent arrears or fell behind on their mortgage payments.
Citizens Advice also found 60% of people it helped are taking out advances while they wait for payment.
Nearly one in two (47%) have no money left after essential living costs (such as food, housing and transport) to pay creditors, or are spending more than they take in.
The good news
The research also found that, following changes by Government in 2017, fewer people are falling behind on their bills or going without essentials during the wait period.
Payment timeliness has improved – now one in six people are not paid in full and on time, while previously it was one in four.
Citizens Advice called on the government to make Universal Credit more flexible to fit around people’s lives and to make sure people have enough money to live on.
It also wants Alternative Payment Arrangements to be more widely available, allowing for rent to be paid direct to a landlord, more frequent payments, and a payment to go to both members of a couple.
Just 3% of claimants currently receive more frequent payments, while just 20 households in the UK receive split payments to different family members.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Half the people we help with a Universal Credit claim are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment.
“Changes to the waiting period for first payment have improved things for many people, but our evidence shows they don’t go far enough.
“Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on.”