Charlotte Furber, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Mind
Tell Mind about your experiences of Universal Credit
14 September 2018
When it was first imagined, Universal Credit was referred to as ‘the most radical overhaul of our welfare system since its inception’. That has largely proved to be true. But from what the people we support at Mind are telling us, it seems it hasn’t been a positive change so far. In fact, the impact for many people with mental health problems has been devastating.
Grace found the process of Universal Credit so hard that it had had a huge impact on her mental health. She was left with a reduced income from repayments for an advance she’d had to take out because of the five week wait. Using the online account had also caused problems for her, as she lives in fear that she will be sanctioned if she forgets to check it. She told us: “I’ve always worried about money and having an anxiety disorder and BPD [borderline personality disorder] makes it hard to feel anything but the pure adrenaline coursing through your body every moment of every day. It’s exhausting and terrifying.”
Grace felt that she was pushed to go back to work before she was ready, because the system wasn’t built to take mental health into consideration: “People with mental health issues should be supported and nurtured until they are strong enough to get back in employment, not be bullied and battered by the system, resulting in further trauma and hindering their recovery process.”
An opportunity for improvement
Despite the years which have been spent establishing Universal Credit, it’s a system that still has many hurdles, which are limiting the support people are able to access. From the experiences we’ve seen, we have concerns about a variety of aspects of Universal Credit, from access to Work Capability Assessments, to the online account, to the inflexibility of monthly payments.
And yet, the Government is continuing with its plans to move most people on old benefits on to Universal Credit. And these plans require people to make a full Universal Credit application themselves. Before this process starts, we need to show them evidence of the experiences of people with mental health problems.
Making your voice heard
People’s experiences of Universal Credit have been diverse, and we know that some people have an easier time than Grace. We need to understand the full reality for people, including what the problems that are frequently appearing are. And ultimately, the government needs to get better at taking people with mental health problems into account.
The next stage of Universal Credit is possibly the most important yet, and we need to be clear about the impact on people with mental health problems. If you’d be willing to tell us about your experience of Universal Credit, you can fill in our survey here. If you don’t receive Universal Credit yourself, but know someone who does, you can share the survey using this link https://action.mind.org.uk/your-experience-universal-credit.