UC advance: Hairdresser gets into debt just to cover bills – Citizens Advice gives warning

Universal Credit is designed to provide relieving support to those who have fallen on hard times. While many will undoubtedly find it helpful, others may struggle with the reality of advanced payments.


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Initial Universal Credit payments can be delayed by up to five weeks, which is a long time to go without any income.

It’s possible to apply for an advance while waiting for the first payment to come through but this itself has been known to cause problems.

Advances need to be repaid and deductions will be made from Universal Credit payments to cover the cost.

The repayments can cause people to fall into a worrying debt spiral.

Desislava, a 33-year-old hairdresser living in London, lost her job in March and applied for Universal Credit as she had no savings to fall back on and was quickly falling into rent arrears.

She commented on her current predicament: “Losing my job and my home was horrible. I was shaking and crying because I thought I might end up sleeping rough.

“I tried my best to look for another job, but nobody has one – it’s a global pandemic.

“I applied for Universal Credit but when I saw the amount I’d receive I realised it wouldn’t be enough to live on and cover my bills.

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“While I wait for my first payment I’ve managed to get an advance of £300 which needs to last me until June 4, but I’m getting stressed and worried about how I’ll survive on that.

“I then need to repay my advance over the next year. £25 a month doesn’t sound like a lot to to pay off, but I know it will be a struggle.

“Particularly as the amount I’m set to get each month won’t even cover my rent and living costs.”

New data released today revealed that 1.9 million households have made a claim for Universal Credit in the last two months alone.


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Citizens Advice warns that unless changes are made to the payment system, a “second wave” of Universal Credit claims could be on the horizon.

Dame Gillian Guy, the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, commented on today’s finding: “The dizzying number of Universal Credit claims since March is a grim reflection of just how many people have seen their income swept away by coronavirus.

“Decisive action from the government means hundreds of thousands of claims have been processed. The next step is to support people during the five-week wait without putting them at risk of debt problems in the future.

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“With a potential second wave of claims looming, now is the time for the government to further strengthen the safety net by turning advance payments into grants.”

Debt owed to the state may not be the only issue claimants face too.

Research from Citizens Advice shows that 15 percent of UK adults anticipate having to borrow money from friends or family to cope with the five-week wait before their first Universal Credit payment, if they had to apply.

On top of this, nine percent of people anticipate not being able to afford essentials during the five-week wait for Universal Credit.

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