One of the main concerns these organisations have is how Universal Credit will be paid out – directly to the service user in a monthly lump sum to imitate a monthly salary.
Budgeting a monthly payment is going to be a daunting challenge for many homeless people who may have limited budgeting skills and who may not have had to budget in this way before.
It is yet to be seen how this will work in practice.Prepaid cards could be a useful tool for homeless people to address the issues of budgeting and safeguarding while still working within the Universal Credit regulations.They would also have the additional benefit of including homeless people in financial mainstream habits without a full-fledged bank account.Homeless people in receipt of housing benefit usually have this paid directly to the landlord, thus eliminating responsibility and the risk of arrears.The risk of rent arrears could not only put people’s accommodation at risk, but might also put off landlords from accepting Universal Credit claimants altogether, thus limiting the options for homeless people to move on into more settled accommodation.
Even under the current system that allows direct payments to landlords from the start, many private landlords do not accept ‘DSS’ tenants (those receiving benefits). Claimants will only have to make a single application for Universal Credit whereas in the past separate applications had to be put through to claim for different benefits individually, creating confusion and paperwork for claimants.Claimants with drug and alcohol misuse problems could also be put at serious risk.Universal Credit will allow for exceptions to the monthly payment so that claimants can receive their money more frequently.Homeless people often have very chaotic lives and may struggle to claim when needed for a variety of reasons.Even those with professional support, such as those who live in supported housing, often fail to make a claim promptly due to lack of engagement with support staff.Monthly payments are not only a budgeting issue but a safeguarding issue as well.