The further rollout of the Universal Credit benefits system will force many hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of people into poverty, the Salvation Army has warned.
The charity says that millions of people either won’t be able to use the Universal Credit system properly or will lose out due to faults within the system itself.
“Rolling out Universal Credit in its current form will steamroll vulnerable people into poverty,” said the Salvation Army’s director of employment services Rebecca Keating.
An issue of particular concern for the charity is the millions of people who claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is claimed by those who need extra help with the processes involved in getting back into work.
Many of those people are soon to be switched over to Universal Credit and the Salvation Army is worried that very significant numbers of ESA claimants will find it tough or even impossible to engage effectively with the system they’re faced with.
“Our research shows that many of them are going to struggle to access a system that is complicated, bureaucratic and digital by default,” said Ms Keating.
Government research suggests that close to 20 per cent of Universal Credit claims are abandoned before they’re completed.
The Salvation Army says that unless the government takes action to offer more support to people who apply for Universal Credit then many simply won’t get the benefits they need.
“Millions could be left unable to buy food, pay their rent and take care of their children,” the charity has said.
Recommendations put forward by the Salvation Army about how vulnerable people might be supported in making their Universal Credit claims include having tailored assistance for people with mental health issues and extra help for those who are homeless or dealing with domestic abuse.
The charity also wants to see more effort made to establish partnerships between Jobcentre staff and organisations like the Salvation Army whose work involves supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society.
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The Covid-19 crisis has pushed close to 700,000 people into poverty over the course of 2020, according to a new study.
The emergency £20 increase to Universal Credit payments introduced in response to the Covid pandemic could be taken away from prospective recipients from April next year.
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