Universal Credit flaw could cost vulnerable Brits support, says Martin Lewis

The founder of Money Saving Expert has issued a warning to those who collect Universal Credit.

Martin Lewis warned how vulnerable people with mental health problems are at risk of missing out on their benefits.

His charity, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, claims that many Brits may struggle to receive the support they need.

This could include filling in complex forms, dealing with letters from the DWP and appealing decisions about their Universal Credit.

It can leave vulnerable people at risk of being sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions or being cut off from payments.

The charity also says it causes unnecessary stress for people who are struggling with their mental health, and for their carers.

Martin, chair and founder of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: "It sounds like a scene from a spoof.

"People who are entitled to Universal Credit, sometimes due to mental health problems, which impact their ability to fill in forms or process complex information, are allowed to nominate someone to help them with the admin needed to keep receiving benefits.

"Yet to do that, they must go through a complex process which requires them to do the exact things they need help with in the first place.

"If they don't manage it, they ultimately risk being sanctioned or losing all financial help. I don't believe this is a deliberate attempt to set people up to fail – yet that is the practical outcome for some.

"This is one Universal Credit problem the government can easily fix, by providing people with the right advice on how to nominate a loved one to help them, and by making the process to do it much easier, simpler and user-friendly."

It comes after the charity's research found 1.3 million people who experience high levels of mental distress are currently receiving or applying for Universal Credit.

But there are fears that this could escalate further once the furlough scheme comes to an end.

In a survey of over 230 people with mental health problems who have claimed Universal Credit, over half (57%) said they have needed help from family or friends to manage their benefit.

Meanwhile, around 27% claimed they need that help always or often, and one in ten (10%) managed to give permission for someone to help regularly.

Money and Mental Health is today launching its new Set Up To Fail initiative where it's calling on the DWP to fix what it calls a flaw in the system.

Problems include the lack of advertising over the option for someone to give permission for a loved one to manage their Universal Credit account.

The charity is also calling for it to be simpler for someone to be named a regular helper.

At the moment it says the claimant needs to tell DWP details of every single task they might need help with, and every piece of information they want to share, but without prompts.

Gary, who took part in the charity's research, said: "In the last year I was made redundant after being with a company for more than 23 years, and all the stress and worry has just come to the surface.

"I found the process of managing Universal Credit just horrendous and tough to follow, nothing is ever explained to you. At the moment I find it tough to deal with people as it's hard to talk."

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He added: "I can't deal with the messages from the DWP myself, I need my wife's help, but we can't set it up for her to receive notifications about the account.

"We've filled all the forms in but it feels like a trap door assessment, if you answer something slightly wrong you fall through and that's it, they'll take the money away. It's like the system's designed to trip you up to fail."

A government spokesperson said: "We always stand ready to help claimants who need extra support and sanctions do not apply to all claimants, including those with a severe mental health condition. We don't want to sanction anyone and won't without good reason.

"Universal Credit is providing a vital safety net for millions and for anyone wishing to nominate someone to help them there are several accessible ways to do so, including by phone, online or using the Help to Claim service.

"This is balanced with the need to ensure the right level of security and protection is maintained for claimants' personal information."

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