The National Housing Federation commissioned a survey aimed at gaining a better understanding of customers' experiences of claiming Universal Credit.
Customer feedback will from part of a collective response from residents across the country, and will be used to inform any changes necessary to improve the service for current and future claimants of Universal Credit. In the meantime, we have already made some improvements to the way we deliver our own services:
You said: Respondents revealed that the information and advice they had received from the Department of Work & Pensions had been disappointing.
⅓ respondents delayed making a claim for Universal Credit for reasons such as:
- They thought they would not qualify.
- They thought their previous benefits would start again.
- They did not know what to do.
Further to this, ⅓ respondents were not advised about claiming for an advanced payment and ½ were not advised about making a separate claim for council tax.
When we become aware that a customer is claiming Universal Credit, we carry out a welfare check to determine how Universal Credit is affecting their livelihood, and offer them support and advice as appropriate.
We are planning to target our communications to advise customers about their entitlements. This could include updates by text or email.
You said: 81% respondents have ongoing deductions from their Universal Credit payment, which could include sanctions.
We did: We have supported customers to appeal against sanctions where we believe they have been administered unfairly. In most cases, we have been successful.
You said: 71% respondents would have preferred their rent to be paid directly to Accent.
We did: Accent is a ‘trusted partner’ of the Department of Work & Pensions. This means that when we make a request for Universal Credit to be paid directly to us (as long as the customer meets the set criteria) the Department of Work & Pensions will not challenge this decision.
You said: Some respondents found it difficult to submit and manage their claims using the online portal.
We did: Accent is part of the Department of Work & Pensions stakeholder group aimed at improving the customer experience for those who claim Universal Credit. This gives us more influence over changes to the service, which could include improvements to the online portal.
You said: Most respondents felt that Accent had been helpful in assisting them with the switch to Universal Credit.
We did: We are pleased to hear that customers feel supported by Accent. To ensure we continue to provide customers with the best possible advice, our teams will benefit from specific training about Universal Credit and other income-related issues.
You said: Most respondents felt underprepared for their switch to Universal Credit.
We did: Customers in Harrogate will be the first to move from legacy benefits (such as Housing Benefit) to Universal Credit through the DWP’s managed migration pilot. We have already identified the customers who we think will be affected and are working closely with Harrogate Borough Council to help prepare them for the switch.
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An informal online community of involved residents, who take part in regular surveys and consultations.