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Many of the two million people due to be moved from ESA onto universal credit (UC) will struggle to claim the new benefit, the Salvation Army has warned in a report published last week.

Researchers for the Salvation Army found that 85% of their users struggled to complete a UC claim.

42% said that mental health issues were the main reason they had problems claiming UC.

The Salvation Army is warning that there is now overwhelming evidence that unless the Government provide more support for people to apply, vulnerable people will struggle to access their benefits. Millions could be left unable to buy food, pay their rent, and take care of their children.

Rebecca Keating, Director of Employment Services at The Salvation Army said: “Rolling out Universal Credit in its current form will steamroll vulnerable people into poverty but the Government has time to turn this around by accepting our recommendations and making it easier to apply.

“Millions of people need extra support accessing a computer or understanding how to fill in complicated online forms. It is these vulnerable people who also claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit for those who need extra help to get back into work. Over two million people are currently claiming ESA and are due to be moved onto Universal Credit. Our research shows that many of them are going to struggle to access a system that is complicated, bureaucratic and digital by default.”

One claimant interviewed by the Salvation Army was a 36 year old father who told them:

“I suffer from anxiety and depression and have been coming to The Salvation Army’s foodbank since I was put on Universal Credit two years ago. It’s really tough and I’ve been sanctioned for missing appointments when I was ill. I’ve also been sanctioned for not looking online for work, but I don’t have access to the internet now because I had to pawn my laptop and my phone to get money to look after my kids.”

The Salvation Army’s recommendations include:

  • Better identification of vulnerable people and those with mental health issues so they have tailored support to move onto Universal Credit.
  • Investment to ensure smaller caseloads for Jobcentre Work Coaches so they have more time to properly identify and support clients who need extra help.
  • More partnership working between Jobcentres and organisations like The Salvation Army, which has expertise in helping vulnerable people into work, including digital and budgeting support.

You can download the full report from this link.

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