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Circle calls on Government to offer one-on-one advice ahead of Universal Credit roll-out

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Circle calls on Government to offer one-on-one advice ahead of Universal Credit roll-out

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Published by Jon Land for Circle in Housing and also in Central Government

Circle Housing Group calls for Government to commit to one on one advice to support Universal Credit roll-out

UK’s financial woes revealed as one in four admit being kept awake by money worries

One in three do not know where to turn for money advice

An ‘underbanked’ population can’t bank online or over the phone and would rather use cash

Housing Group calls for more support to help transition to Universal Credit

The need for extra support for the eight million people who will be affected by the launch of Universal Credit* is vital, warns Circle Housing Group, as it publishes new research today outlining the extent of people’s money worries across the UK.

Money worries

A new nationwide YouGov poll of 1,000 UK adults commissioned by Circle Housing Group, found one in four respondents (24%) said they were kept awake by financial worries. These concerns are having a concerning impact on health, with one in ten (10%) stating they have experienced a stress related illness as a result. Even full-time workers (25%) admitted they can’t sleep because of fretting over their finances.

It is an even starker picture among social housing residents. ‘Has the Penny Dropped’; an independent study of Circle Housing Group’s tenants**, found that one in three (33%) confessed they stay awake at night with money worries and half (50%) are worried about the future. A quarter of tenants (24%) admitted to having no idea where to start when it comes to managing their finances, and 16% already put off opening their bills.

Underbanked, rather than unbanked

As the Government seeks to encourage more social housing tenants to bank via the phone or over the internet, the YouGov poll reveals that 33% of people across the UK have never used a telephone banking service, including over two-fifths (43%) of those who are unemployed.

This figure is much higher among Circle’s tenants – almost nine out of ten (87%) do not use telephone banking and three quarters (76%) do not use internet banking. In fact, while most of Circle’s tenants have a bank account, nearly six out of ten (57%) prefer to use cash. Also, 45% don’t have internet access at home, 58% don’t have internet access through a mobile phone and only 46% state that they feel confident using technology. 

Who to turn to

Despite these financial worries, just 20% of Circle’s tenants have sought out financial or debt advice in the last six months. More than one in three (36%) of respondents to the YouGov poll admitted they didn’t know which bodies or organisations to turn to.

Helping the transition

With the research showing that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to managing money, Circle is calling for the Government to commit to providing at least one face-to-face money advice session for those who most need it, and to work with partners such as housing associations to ensure that all affected receive timely and tailored communication about the changes.

Mark Rogers, Group Chief Executive at Circle Housing Group, said: "We recognise the Government is moving to Universal Credit so people receiving benefit can take responsibility for managing their money, and that this will help ease the transition to work. The results of our study suggest however that there is a real risk of people falling down the gap during the transition and we are keen to work with the DWP to find solutions.

"Online and phone banking will suit some, but others will need a different kind of support to ensure they don’t fall into problems such as arrears, debt and eviction. So we would like to work with the Government to agree the best way to provide timely and tailored communication, and want the Government to commit to providing at least one face to face advice session for those who need it."

For further information about Circle or its partners and to read the report in full please visit

http://www.circle.org.uk

*Under the new Universal Credit system all social housing tenants will receive their benefit in a lump sum and housing benefit will no longer go directly to their landlords. Only those considered ‘vulnerable’ will be exempt from the new system

**A total of 1,144 surveys were completed by Circle customers across the Group’s geographic locations including a full range of ages, demographic groups and tenure types.

Key summary of findings from Circle Housing’s Has The Penny Dropped report:

4% of Circle tenants do not hold a bank account.

However, 57% of tenants say they prefer to use cash to pay for things.

Less than half (38%) of Circle tenants save on either a regular or an occasional basis.

Only 40% of Circle tenants have home contents insurance which means, in the event of a fire or burglary, they could end up losing everything.

45% of tenants don’t have internet access at home and 58% don’t have access via mobile phone.

30% of tenants find themselves lying awake at night thinking about money issues.

24% say they don’t know where to start to improve their financial situation.

However, only 17%, of our customers have received debt advice in the last six months.

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