A report published today by Citizens Advice has shown that over two fifths (81%) of those switching to Universal Credit were struggling to heat their homes as they awaited their first payment. The report, which was produced by 16 local Citizens Advice offices, describes how respondents have to manage without heating or by temporarily moving to relatives’ homes.
Advisers also saw greater levels of debt and rent arrears amongst Universal Credit claimants compared to claimants of legacy benefits. The research found that nearly two thirds (63%) of respondents also reported difficulty affording enough food - a number of respondents specifically recalling their shock at having to rely on food banks to survive.
Universal Credit paid in arrears
Universal Credit is paid five to six weeks in arrears, with the idea being that this would replicate how people are paid at the end of each month. However the research found that only four in ten were paid monthly, causing the majority of Universal Credit recipients to have to live off one week’s wages for the remainder of the month.
Turn2us, who recently launched its No cold Homes campaign to raise awareness of those struggling to afford the cost of heating their homes commented: “This report highlights the heart-breaking situation that people find themselves in, with those on pre-payment metres most at risk of having to do without heating whilst they await payment of Universal Credit. Last year over 18,000 people died in what is described as an ‘excess winter death’, so, with the coldest winter in five years predicted, it is vital that those struggling are aware of what support is available.”
As part of the No Cold Homes campaign, the charity is bringing together a range of information and support available to those struggling to heat their homes.
“Too many people are suffering in silence, with those on disabilities and parents most at risk,”* commented Turn2us. “Only 12% of those struggling have contacted their energy provider to find out what support is available, whilst 83% are not aware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts to help struggling customers. That is why we are urging anyone worried about the cost of heating their home to visit turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes to see what support is available.”
Turn2us/Research Now survey
*All figures, unless otherwise stated are from a survey conducted with Research Now in September 2015. Total sample size was 2,001 adults with annual household incomes of £30,000 and less before tax and deductions - read our press release: Half of low income working households struggling with energy costs