We recently brought you our guide to Universal Credit for single parents. But how helpful is it when you’re heading a family alone? We reached out to the Frolo community to see how many of you are using the UC system, and how well it’s working for you.
In our guide to Universal Credit we assured you that there is nothing wrong with receiving additional financial support to help yourself and your children thrive. If you’re not convinced, and you feel isolated and alone, you can rest assured that you are in good company. We ran a poll on the Frolo app asking our users about their experiences using UC. Out of 133 people, 53% of those that answered have received Universal Credit since becoming a single parent, a further 8% already received it pre-single parenthood and 39% don’t use it. So, more than half of the single parents that answered are using the UC system.
To get the answer to this question, we asked frolos on the app to share their experiences about using the financial support system. Here’s what we learnt…
We’ve removed the frolos’ names from their answers, but the full conversations are on the main feed on the app.
T: ‘I moved from Tax Credits to UC during the pandemic. Personally, it’s easier to navigate and easier to access as it’s all on my online account.’
C: ‘My experience of universal credit has only been a good experience. I started receiving it after becoming a single parent as my ex doesn’t pay maintenance. I also get 85% childcare costs back. It’s really easy to navigate and to upload my invoice and proof of payment each month to childcare.
Another frolo asked C how she sorted out the childcare costs, as she was having issues navigating this.
C: ‘If you already have universal credit, you go onto your menu and click on report childcare cost and you can add a provider. You need their name, address, telephone number. Then each month when you get your invoice from your childcare (the invoice has to have the above on it also), you go onto ‘report childcare costs’ fill in how much it cost you for the month and when it ran from and until, and then upload a photo of the invoice and proof of payment. I tend to screenshot my bank app transfer.’
Another frolo agreed with C.
K: ‘I second C’s comments, only good experiences. Even when I received no payment due to being paid early at Christmas and two salaries falling in the same reporting period so it looked like I’d earned mega bucks that month! I raised the issue when them and they amended it and issued a payment.’
But not all the feedback on Universal Credit was good.
K: ‘I think the system is dehumanising and the childcare part is ridiculous. Constant faffing around with bank statements to prove payment of childcare and have to pay upfront to have some of it refunded, causing a deficit before you even start. Also, the amount is a lot lower than tax credits were. I also think sanctions should be banned. I’ve never been sanctioned personally but I know they’ve caused unnecessary suffering to people who have been via my work - starving people for non compliance…It also assumes those living on £330 a month can afford a smartphone.’
A lot of the stresses seem to be in the initial set-up and a few bugs and drawbacks, with the general running once set-up fairly positive. This frolo shares their experience:
G: ‘First time I claimed it was jumping through a lot of hoops and a lot of form filling, phone calls and the constant ‘do you have proof’ questions. I found it very stressful, though now it is sorted I appreciate the help I get, it’s not much and it just about keeps me from growing. I have to budget for everything and go without. I think the hardest part of being a single parent is financial freedom: trying to get a mortgage now is impossible. My house needs work so I will lose out if I sell it, but that would leave us homeless, as I can’t get another mortgage due to low income. I choose to put my son first.’
This frolo has just been through the application process for Universal Credit, so their experience may help.
E: ‘I am new to it all and so far it has been good. I applied for it after reading an article [on Frolo] about benefits that could help single parents. I went ahead and applied online and found out I qualified for UC. I had to go to the Jobcentre to prove my identity and that was it. I got my first payment last week. I found the process very straightforward, but my situation is not complicated. I work 24 hours a week over three days. I have a 5-year-old and live at home with my parents. My son’s father has very little involvement.’
A few frolos shared their issues with the UC system. For single parents, Universal Credit may be limiting when it comes to housing support.
J: ‘It’s a bit like the CMS as it’s a set system to cover the majority of scenarios. The problem is there are so many other factors that make it unfair to a lot of people… I’m lucky to have a low mortgage otherwise I would have to have sold the house and move somewhere smaller as there is only support for those that rent.’
S: ‘My only grumble is the help towards rent is unrealistic. The local area allowance is about 20% below what rents actually are, so I have to pay a lot of extra money towards that, which leaves me very short.’
A: ‘It’s unfair. People with a mortgage with under £16K savings under a certain salary will get benefits. But someone who is renting with more than £16K savings gets nothing.
Thank you to each and every member of the Frolo community for how open and supportive you are. Your help means so much.
Join the conversation on the Frolo app, today! There's a Frolo Finances group chat on the app with more than 700 members where you can get help and support whenever you need it.