Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Managing money and cards – another challenge of Universal Credit

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  May 23, 2013 |

Elaine and Claire calculating at Leeds GATEFrom next year, another big change in the lives of many will be the practical impact of Universal Credit payments. Gone will be the weekly or fortnightly payments of different benefits, such as ESA one week, housing benefit another and Child Benefit the next.  In comes one big monthly payment which rolls together most benefits (pretty much anything outside pensions and disability payments).  In comes the expectation to manage this money yourself as out go direct payments to landlords and others.

The first obstacle will be financial management and good budgeting. For many, it will come as a surprise and a significant change to their household spending plans to receive one payment per month.  Budgeting for this may therefore be a big challenge and with which GATE will try and support its members as best as it can, using input from relevant partners with finance expertise.  We will not, and have no wish, to tell members what to do with their money.  We do however hope that we can help improve their knowledge and confidence in adapting to the new system.

Aside from the change in when the money is received, there will be increasing demands on people to manage this themselves. All benefits will now be paid directly to the claimant where before certain payments, like housing benefit, were directed to the relevant payee.  It is therefore down to the individual to set up and manage all these rent payments themselves; undoubtedly more challenging for those with less confidence in financial matters or face literacy difficulties, as many in the Gypsy and Traveller community find themselves.  Again, we at GATE will try and support our members to manage this, with our partners, when the time comes.

Related to this demand for managing payments will be the obstacle of bank accounts and direct debit facilities. As often noted by GATE, many Gypsy and Travellers encounter problems opening banks accounts, related to challenges of providing proof of address and other identification.  Many who set up accounts went for the Post Office Card Account, precisely because this was previously recommended by the Government. Crucially, this account does not have a direct debit facility, key to setting up easy and reliable payments.  Members will need to find other ways round this problem, either in getting a new bank account or having to manage any payments in a more time consuming and complicated fashion.

These problems, amongst many others, have been pointed out to the DWP, in particular at our recent roundtable events. We will continue to seek recognition of the difficulties these financial demands will place on the Gypsy and Traveller community, not just in Leeds but nationwide.  Equally, we would argue that for people to be prepared for such changes, as the Government clearly seek to achieve, they need to know exactly what will be introduced and when.  At current many of the details are sadly still unavailable.  We will try and keep on top of this issue and keep people as informed as we are when new info comes in.  Stay tuned!

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