The pitfalls, the 3 Bs
Quids in! works closely with Universal Credit (UC) claimants and they tell us that moving over to the new benefit system is not always easy. In fact, they say that if we were struggling with your money before we transfer to UC, the chances are we’ll need help after. The problems are not unique to claimants, though. What would have helped them could help everyone who wants to make sure their finances are fit for the future.
Their feedback helped us put together a guide and a support programme. The ‘3 Bs’, or three bees as they appear, now form the cornerstone of Quids in! money guidance. They are the theme of the money skills workshops we deliver from our Quids In Centres (run by Clean Slate Training & Employment) and they feature on the cover of various guides and materials.
SO, WHAT ARE THE 3 Bs?
- Banking: Having the right bank account or similar means we can receive electronic benefit payments. This is essential for Universal Credit but during lockdown parents entitled to school meals vouchers in Northern Ireland, for example, came unstuck if they didn’t have one. It’s an assumption the government makes about how we can receive help when we need it. Having a mainstream account, even a Basic Bank Account, means we can make direct debit and standing order payments, so our rent and bills can be paid automatically without us worrying about it. Even with a poor credit history, most of us can still get a Basic Bank Account but we need to know what we’re asking for. We also need ID, required to make a UC claim too, so it’s worth getting this organised as early as possible. Read more on banking.
- Budgeting: All of us should know how much is coming in and going out each month. That’s all budgeting is. Knowing if this leaves us short, or where we might be able to tighten our belts to save up for the future, is essential to future-proofing our finances. We have to know we can weather any financial storms. For many UC claimants, that storm is here already. The six benefits (listed here) that UC replaces are now paid in one monthly payment. And in arrears! This includes our rent money, if we would have been claiming Housing Benefit on the old system. Claimants say their biggest challenge is keeping rent safe when there are so many things to pay for. UC takes a while to set up and because it’s paid in arrears, there is a minimum 5-6 week wait for the first payment. If any problems arise, it can take as long as three months. And that’s why budgeting is essential. We may find we need to cut back or, if there’s time, start saving to tide us over while awaiting the first payment. When moving onto UC, we can ask for an Advance, but that will mean having less each month in future… so we’d have to check our budget stretches for that too. Saving regularly with a credit union (who usually help with budgeting) could mean we get a small loan to help us through in emergencies. Read more on budgeting.
- Being Online: Now, as we’re here, we should be okay with being online. But spread the word because another shock for many was that to claim and manage UC, claimants have to be online. People need an email address and to know how to use it. We need access to a PC, a tablet or a smartphone (although forms on these are fiddly) and know how to use these too. If anyone needs help, they could start by trying to find their nearest UK Online Centre, (search here), who will not only help them learn how to use a computer and the internet but can often help with accessing online services like benefits. The 3 Bs are not just for UC claimants. Being online is going to be more and more essential for all of us to accessing services like passports, driving licences, parking permits and even sorting out rubbish collections, etc. It is also good for our wallet because we can shop around, find advice, uncover deals and offers, pay bills and keep an eye on our bank balance. Anyone just starting out could learn more about how to make the internet work for them by visiting www.learnmyway.com.
CLAIMANTS’ GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL CREDIT
The 3 Bs are the stars of our Guide to Universal Credit for new claimants. (It is available to buy in the Quids In Store or we can ask the local council or our landlord, if we rent). The Guide talks readers through what they need to know – what other claimants wish they’d known before. It all starts with the three Bs: Banking, Budgeting and Being Online.