I head up our welfare benefit team, which includes a Universal Credit officer, and we provide advice and support around benefit issues.
I’ve been with Radian for almost 25 years – it’s safe to say that Universal Credit has been a significant change.
It’s not one size fits all
I’m often asked how Universal Credit has affected our customers. The bottom line is that it works for some, and not for others.
Those that are tech savvy and comfortable using the internet have found it easier to get to grips with it.
The structure of a monthly payment also works for some.
Yet, many customers experience the opposite. Lower levels of computer literacy and a pattern of being paid either weekly, or twice a month, means Universal Credit has a more adverse impact.
One of the flaws is that Universal Credit has been designed with the assumption that the world of work is based on monthly pay, but a lot of our customers are paid in different patterns.
And whilst many customers are very good at budgeting, the unpredictability of how much money they could have each month understandably causes problems.
On average, our customers in receipt of Universal Credit have higher arrears, but we are seeing a gradual reduction.
We believe that’s because we’ve put a lot of effort into preparing people for moving on to it in the first place. We’ve also got a triage system to support new claimants who could be struggling.
We have worked hard to build relationships with service centres and job centres. We’re starting to see some positive results as we work together to support vulnerable customers.
Here to stay
Most people accept that Universal Credit is here to stay and it’s unrealistic to think about scrapping it now.
The simplicity of one benefit is a good idea and some elements should be retained but more personalisation and understanding is needed. Solving problems can be difficult when you are dealing with large, remote service centres.
We regularly feed into policy discussions via the National Housing Federation (NHF). Some things have happened already as a result of these efforts, but it’s slow progress.
We need government to see that getting Universal Credit right is an urgent problem.
– Rachel Robertson, Income Manager