New research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) – a charity set up by money expert Martin Lewis – warns that 100,000s of people with severe mental distress may struggle to get the support they need to properly manage their Universal Credit claims and avoid sanctions.
The research also finds that while over half those with mental health problems need help with Universal Credit from family and friends, only one in ten has managed to nominate a regular helper.
The report warns that “absurd and needless design flaws” in the Universal Credit process to nominate a helper effectively mean that those in mental health crisis are being “set up to fail” by the DWP system.
MMHPI further warn that even those with mild mental health conditions may experience difficulties in understanding complex forms and conditionality requirements and remembering appointments, which could ultimately affect their Universal Credit claim and leave them open to sanctions.
The charity explains: “The research shows that the Universal Credit system is setting vulnerable people up to fail because to nominate someone to support them, they have to navigate similarly complex and unclear processes to those that they were trying to get help with in the first place.”
They continue: “In a survey of over 230 people with mental health problems who have claimed Universal Credit, over half (57%) said they have needed help from family or friends to manage their Universal Credit account. Just over a quarter (27%) said they need that help always or often, and yet only one in ten (10%) has managed to give permission for someone to help regularly.”
Gary, who took part in the charity’s research, told the charity: “In the last year I was made redundant after being with a company for more than 23 years, and all the stress and worry has just come to the surface.
“I found the process of managing Universal Credit just horrendous and tough to follow, nothing is ever explained to you. At the moment I find it tough to deal with people as it’s hard to talk.
“I can’t deal with the messages from the DWP myself, I need my wife’s help, but we can’t set it up for her to receive notifications about the account.
“We’ve filled all the forms in but it feels like a trap door assessment, if you answer something slightly wrong you fall through and that’s it, they’ll take the money away. It’s like the system’s designed to trip you up to fail.”
Commenting, Martin Lewis (pictured above), Chair and Founder of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “It sounds like a scene from a spoof. People who are entitled to Universal Credit, sometimes due to mental health problems, which impact their ability to fill in forms or process complex information, are allowed to nominate someone to help them with the admin needed to keep receiving benefits.
“Yet to do that, they must go through a complex process which requires them to do the exact things they need help with in the first place. If they don’t manage it, they ultimately risk being sanctioned or losing all financial help.
“I don’t believe this is a deliberate attempt to set people up to fail. Yet that is the practical outcome for some.
“This is one Universal Credit problem the government can easily fix, by providing people with the right advice on how to nominate a loved one to help them, and by making the process to do it much easier, simpler and user-friendly.”
“And with more and more people likely to move on to Universal Credit when the furlough scheme ends in September, there is no time to waste.
“We’re calling on the government to act now so that everyone can get the help they need with Universal Credit.”