“As our research clearly demonstrates, many of the difficulties identified can be overcome if supported housing services and support workers are treated by the DWP as partners in helping to support claimants with specific needs make and maintain their Universal Credit claims. At its heart, this would involve the formal recognition of the role support workers can play in helping residents manage their money, and the more efficient two-way sharing of information between DWP and services, based on a simplified approach to consent.
“For mainstream housing, ‘Trusted Partner’ status is already available to certain housing associations. We believe that this process could be adapted for providers of supported housing to help people proactively manage the personal elements of their universal credit claim.”
The benefit of support was emphasised by a research participant who said: “I can’t fault [her support worker]. She takes care of, everything, like tax questions, because it's all new to me. And bills too, setting up my water bill, because I've never had to do that before, so she's helped me with that too.”
The complexities involved with making and maintaining a Universal Credit claim has resulted in a significant amount of work already being undertaken by services to help people overcome barriers such as digital exclusion, lack of identification, and lengthy assessment periods. However, too often this progress is limited by a complex administrative system which assumes that claimants have the experience and life skills to cope.
Jonathan Graham continues: “We urge the government to take the time to make the improvements recommended by our research to help ensure Universal Credit can meet the needs of vulnerable people. Crucially, we believe that the vast majority of our suggestions can be made without technical changes to the Universal Credit Regulations.
“We are keen to continue our work with government to that universal credit works for all claimants, and specifically those living in supported housing.”
A full copy of the report is available here