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More than 6,000 people claiming Universal Credit in Harrogate and Craven

Ilkley food bank

Published at 7:03am 6th March 2019.

Food banks and homeless hostels in Harrogate and Craven say the introduction of Universal Credit has had a "big impact". 

  • Stray FM is investigating the impact of Universal Credit 
  • The new benefits system was introduced in Harrogate and Craven in 2016 as part of a pilot  
  • Government figures show over 6,000 people have claimed Universal Credit in Harrogate and Craven 

Universal Credit represents a huge shake-up of the benefits system and rolls a number of benefits into one. 

Read more about how Universal Credit works here.

People have been claiming it in Harrogate and Craven since June 2016. 

Government figures show by December 2018, 3,724 people were claiming it in Harrogate and Knaresborough. In Skipton and Ripon, that figure was 2,688

The government says Universal Credit aims to reduce poverty by "making work pay" and helping claimants and their families to become more independent. 

However it's faced criticism, and a Stray FM investigation has found families in Craven struggling to cope

One woman even told us it made her homeless.  

Food banks and homeless hostels have also told us it's having an impact.  

Phil Sage is the Manager of Skipton Food Bank, which is based at Skipton Baptist Church. 

Phil said:

"Often people go onto Universal Credit when they have a change in their circumstances.

"People are quite vulnerable anyway at that particular time and then they face this long wait. There's a lot of admin to get through to make the claim, you have to do it digitally which isn't always that easy for people."

Springboard is a day centre in Harrogate which is part of The Harrogate Homeless Project.  

Support worker Linda Fulcher said they're worried it's leading to more people living on the streets. 

Linda said: 

"It's very difficult to get Universal Credit to pay direct to the landlord. All the money you're entitled to benefit-wise is paid monthly now.

"A lot of our clients can't budget very well and that impacts us down the line with possible evictions."

Claims need to be managed online, which Linda says is causing problems. 

She added:

"People don't find it easy. I'm not saying it should be easy, but they should take into account people who can't use computers. 

"It takes a lot of our time up here, going on to the journal with them, seeing if they've got anything to do." 

Ripon YMCA, which supports people as young as 16 who're facing homelessness, says it's having an impact on young people too. 

CEO of Ripon YMCA, Lucy Gratton says one challenge is the delay in getting claims sorted. 

Lucy also told us young people who're working part-time or who are on zero hours contracts are finding it difficult. 

You can hear more from Lucy below: 

Lucy Gratton from Ripon YMCA explains the impact of Universal Credit

Prime Minister Theresa May has described the introduction of the benefit changes as a "steady process", saying ministers are "learning through the process".

Universal Credit is due to be implemented in full by December 2023. 

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said:

Universal Credit is a force for good, we continue to make improvements where needed and 96% of claimants now receive their payments in full and on time.

“There is a range of specialised support to people struggling with homelessness and housing issues, including help with opening bank accounts, finding accommodation and budgeting. We have also committed to establishing a single point of contact for homelessness issues in every jobcentre.

Food bank use is a complex issue, and can’t be tied to any one cause.”

The Department for Work and Pensions also claims Universal Credit will mean "an extra 200,000 people moving into work and increasing their incomes". It says the system is simpler and families and disabled people will receive more money per month.

It adds "a range of stakeholders, including Refuge, Crisis and StepChange responded positively to Secretary of State’s recent speech, setting out an ambitious new future for Universal Credit."

 

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Universal Credit: Over 1,400 people turn to Harrogate and Craven Citizen's Advice

Audio & Video: A Stray FM investigation is looking into the impact of the new benefits system.

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