This report, the first in a three-part series on UC during the pandemic, covers our clients’ experiences applying for UC and the circumstances that led them to seek advice from CAB. Our research found that, despite UC performing well under the strain of the pandemic in some respects, there is significant need for improvement, with many long-standing issues with its design causing stress, anxiety, and hardship:
- Over 7 in 10 people (72%) found the application process for UC stressful.
- More than a third (36%) encountered at least one problem during the application process, including problems gathering supporting evidence and dealing with UC’s digital-by-default design.
- Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) found it difficult to get information on applying for UC, before they sought help from CAB.
- Almost 1 in 4 (24%) reported that the information they found from DWP on applying for UC was unhelpful.
- Almost half (47%) did not find it easy to contact the DWP.
- Almost half (48%) said they had to borrow or take an advance to get through the five week wait.
- Among clients that borrowed to get them through the five week waiting period, the majority (65%) said they will find it difficult to repay the loan.
- Overall, less than half (41%) were satisfied with the default process of applying for UC, with 14% very dissatisfied.
Our research highlights that difficulties with the application process are disproportionately encountered by older people, disabled people, single parents, and those who are currently unemployed or economically inactive. Making positive changes to these elements would increase the accessibility of social security for all.