The universal credit benefit system, which is being trialled in part of Northamptonshire, could be undermined by people asking others to access their accounts, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau has said.
Martin Lord, head of the Central and East Northamptonshire branch, said universal credit would address some of the concerns about council tax benefit, job seeker’s allowance and income support, which the new system consolidates.
But the charity remains concerned in the first week of the trial in Daventry about how the system is implemented.
Mr Lord said: “The default is that claims are made and managed online.
“The problem, we find, is that there may well be a high degree of web access but not necessarily high confidence in being online.
“that means there can be misreporting, they may not recieve information and, worst of all, they aren’t able to use the account so end up saying to someoen else ‘here’s me password’.
“That can cause really big problems.”
Another problem in previous pilot areas has been that the housing benefit element is now paid to the claimant.
Social tenants have up until now had their benefit paid directly to the landlord and that has led to high numbers of rent arrears.
Mr Lord said: “Having this extra money not normally available has seen some of them spend it on things other than rent.
“Then you get people in trouble with owed rent.”
In a pilot areas survey of 1,700 clients, excluding Daventry, found 80 per cent of people would prefer to have their landlord to receive housing benfits payments directly.
Nine out of 10 people said they’d be better off with just two weeks of payment rather than receiving the money once a month.
Concerns have also been raised about the quality of the IT system used to claim.
There are upsides, however.
Mr Lord said: “It does mean that benefits come from one department, the DWP, rather than the three claimants have been dealing with.
“That should make it simpler if there are any problems.
But he added:“Although Universal credit solves some of the current problems, we remain to be convinced about implementation and that is a particular worry when advice charities to support people affected are struggling.”