Majority of benefit claimants concerned about welfare reform

Up to 85 percent of benefit claimants are concerned about the introduction of the government's Universal Credit (UC) welfare system, a new survey has revealed.

Turn2us, part of charity Elizabeth Finn Care, discovered a widespread lack of awareness over major changes that are happening to the welfare system.

It was found that over two-fifths (43 percent) of people claiming benefits that will be replaced by UC aren’t aware that their benefits will be affected.

And of those who are aware, over three-quarters (77 percent) said they are not confident that they know how or when it could affect their benefits.

Similarly, over a third (35 percent) of people in England currently receiving council tax benefit said they are not aware that they may be required to pay more or all of their council tax from this April. Over two thirds (68 percent) said that they would have to cut back on heating and food if they had to pay more toward their council tax bill.

Turn2us is running its third annual Benefits Awareness Month campaign this April to encourage people in financial need to check their entitlements and prepare for the significant changes to the benefit system that are coming into effect.

UC will affect five million tax credit customers and 3.5 million housing benefit customers. It will replace Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

It includes a new requirement for most claimants to apply online and will replace weekly with monthly payments.

The research found that there might be problems for future UC claimants in managing the money they receive.

Nearly two-fifths (39 percent) of current claimants said UC would make it harder to budget because they’re used to having their benefits paid more frequently, and over a quarter (29 percent) are concerned that the move to monthly payments means they could get into debt to cover the shortfall of payments.

Additionally, over a third (34 percent) said they feel anxious about inputting their personal details online and almost one fifth (17 percent) are concerned that their computer skills aren’t strong enough to apply for online support.

Nearly one tenth (nine percent) of claimants said they don’t have easy access to a computer.

Alison Taylor, director of Turn2us said: “Our latest research findings have confirmed what we have been hearing from the people we help for a number of months; that there is real uncertainty, confusion and concern over the forthcoming changes, despite the fact that there has been much work by the government to simplify the system. It is vital that people are armed with information that’s easy to understand and tailored to their situation.”