Getting to grips with Universal Credit

02 Aug 2017

Written by Charlotte Self

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop with Lloyds Banking Group and representatives from our Online Centres Network to co-design refreshed Universal Credit content for Learn My Way. It was a really productive session and the range of experience in the room meant that everyone had something valuable to contribute.

Universal Credit is the largest reform to the welfare benefits system in the UK since the 1940s. Reports suggest that a potential 8 million people could be affected. This new benefit is paid in a single monthly payment and replaces Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Universal Credit was first introduced in 2013, and the current completion date for the rollout is September 2018.

Universal Credit is managed entirely online, starting with the application process. This is a significant challenge to those with little or no digital skills. Our latest research shows that 15.2 million people in the UK aren’t fully using the internet, many of whom will be affected by the switch to Universal Credit. Lots of centres in the Online Centres Network are already working tirelessly to support individuals to access and manage Universal Credit.

There are also significant challenges to the 16.2 million people who have low financial capability. Universal Credit is paid to the claimant in monthly instalments into a bank, building society or credit union account. Those who currently receive housing benefit will now have this paid to them as part of their Universal Credit, instead of directly to their landlord as under the old system. Furthermore, there is a gap of approximately six weeks between submitting the claim (causing your existing benefits to be stopped) and receiving your first Universal Credit payment. This means that claimants are required to learn additional budgeting skills, which they’ve not previously needed.

With all this in mind, Good Things Foundation are thrilled to be partnering with Lloyds Banking Group to redesign our Universal Credit module on Learn My Way to reflect the changes that have been made since we first created the course in 2014. This is an important and exciting piece of work, ensuring that not only Lloyds Banking Group customers but the wider public are better prepared for the rollout of Universal Credit.

At the workshop, we split into four groups to discuss different stages of the Universal Credit process. Understanding the process meant that we could identify the main barriers which can come up before, during and after a Universal Credit application. This, in turn, shows us key areas we need to cover in the new Learn My Way Universal Credit guide and support materials.

The refreshed course is now in development and over the next few weeks, we’ll build alpha and beta versions of it, with user testing starting at the end of August. The finished version will be available on Learn My Way by the end of September.

We’ll be blogging throughout the process, so keep an eye out for more updates over the coming weeks and months.