Universal Credit and the Benefit Cap: Lewisham Case Study

 In a survey of 200 claimants who used the Benefit Cap Calculator, 85% said they were more likely to look for work following their appointment.

Lewisham and the Benefit Cap

Lewisham was announced as one of 12 local authority pilots selected to test the local authority role in supporting some of the key objectives of Universal Credit. Lewisham’s objectives for the pilot were to develop an evidence based definition of vulnerability, in order to be able to provide effective support for transition and access to Universal Credit.

“We know some people will need support when they first claim Universal Credit and these projects will highlight how councils can use their local expertise to help residents”

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform

To test and develop this triage process, Lewisham focused on those tenants impacted by the Benefit Cap. A single household was set to lose over £20,000 a year, Lewisham recognised that a similar level of cost was likely to fall on the local authority (through Adult services, Children’s Services, Homelessness, Section 21) unless they intervened early.

A letter was sent to 724 households impacted by the cap, and this was followed by a telephone call that included 14 questions, designed to elicit problems faced with:

  • Financial Capability: Budgeting and manage monthly payments
  • Housing Costs: Sustain tenancies in the social and private rented sector
  • Online Capability: Transact with government services online
  • Employment: Access employment and work-focused training

lewisham logoInitial interviews were conducted over the telephone, and households identified as vulnerable were invited into the office for a face to face interview.

“We were clear that one of the important missing links in the current process for working face to face with residents affected by UC and the benefit cap was a tool which could visually explain the financial impacts at an individual level.”

Justine Roberts, Programme Manager for the Universal Credit Pilot, Lewisham

Lewisham commissioned Policy in Practice to develop a custom version of the the Universal Credit Calculator designed to elicit behavior change and engagement from the user.

“Deven understood what our needs were and listened to how we intended to use the calculator as part of our pilot. His detailed knowledge of the current benefit system and UC combined with his technical expertise to build online tools of this type made him the ideal person to work with us on this.”

Policy in Practice is working with Lewisham to develop and improve the effectiveness of the claimant action plan, and create a process that ensures that behavior change is sustained.

“The calculator now forms an integral part of our face to face support planning approach and the feedback from front-line staff and residents is that the calculator is making a real difference in helping to change attitudes and put work at the heart of the transition to Universal Credit.” – Lewisham Borough Council

If you would like to learn more about this emerging best practice that is helping local authorities to manage the impact of the benefit cap and improve the lives of residents claimants then please contact us.

What lessons have been learned from the pilot

  • Digital: It’s not really about online, it’s about the form.
  • Financial: Debt is a really big issue and a lot of people don’t even consider their rent in their income.
  • Housing: Not always the solution it is perceived to be.
  • Employment: An entrenched view that work doesn’t pay, balancing realistic job outcomes for now with ambition for the future.
What are the next steps for Lewisham? 

  • Refine the approach, improve the action
  • Roll out in second wave of prototype & then third (724 by 31st March)
  • Mainstream the model for local claimant support
  • If you would like to learn more about this emerging best practice that is helping local authorities to manage the impact of the benefit cap and improve the lives of residents claimants then please contact us.

Client and customer testimonials:

Deven’s detailed knowledge of the current benefit system and UC combined with his technical expertise to build online tools of this type made him the ideal person to work with us on this.

Justine Roberts, UC Programme Manager, Lewisham Borough Council

Deven was very flexible and willing to meet with us regularly to explore ideas and test out ideas for how these would work in practice.

Annie ThuVuong, Lead on Frontline Support, Lewisham Borough Council

‘I liked the graph. It was surprising to see visually that I would be better off in work.’

Claimant feedback

Contact Us

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply