Perennial is preparing for a busy winter ahead as the roll-out of the government’s flagship benefits programme, Universal Credit, continues to cause confusion and frustration among those it will affect. An estimated 600,000 self-employed people will be worse off under Universal Credit and so our services team has increased its focus on support, training and preparation to help self-employed horticulturists, as well as single people and families, navigate the new system.
Julia Hayne, Director of Services at Perennial, says: “The government is coming under increasing pressure from cross-party groups and charitable organisations working with those who will be most affected, to delay its roll-out of Universal Credit. We are already seeing its effects. More people need help with the significant increase in administration that the new system demands and we have been providing transitional support. We are now gearing up for 2019 when 2.8 million households are likely to be affected by the full roll-out, many of them working single parents or home owners on tax credits.”
In those areas where Universal Credit has already been introduced, Perennial caseworkers feel it has gone as well as can be expected, but the team is anticipating an increase in overall demand for services and thinks that individual cases will take longer to resolve. Julia Hayne continues:
“Over the coming weeks and months we will be focusing on training and preparation for reacting to Universal Credit queries and issues as well as investing time in capacity building and preventative work. We have worked with existing clients to prepare for what might happen to their financial situation under Universal Credit, and we have launched our online budgeting tool to enable people to make informed decisions and plan for their future.”
Amanda* is a widow with 2 young children. After her husband died she returned to work, on a short-term contract, as a college lecturer and received working and child tax credits. At the end of the academic year she went to claim for job seekers allowance to tide her over until the new academic year started. As Amanda lives in a Universal Credit area, her tax credits stopped, and Universal Credit was awarded instead, at a lesser amount. Upon returning to work for the new academic year, she could not return to working tax credits and is now trying to cope with a negative disposable income.
Perennial is supporting the family with a regular child award, as her Universal Credit payment will not cover the cost of childcare to allow her to work and will continue to support Amanda as she navigates the new system and works out the best way to build a secure future for her family.
Perennial’s advice to everyone working in horticulture who is in receipt of benefits, or who thinks they may be entitled to benefits, is to start exploring the range of options available now, before the full Universal Credit roll-out bites. The Perennial helpline and caseworker team is here to help people understand the implications of the planned changes in the benefits system so if you are worried about how it will affect your income, get in touch with Perennial for an informal, confidential chat with trained, professional advisers.
Perennial’s Debt Advice Service is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (www.fca.org.uk)
* Names have been changed