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Universal Credit Scottish choices: evaluation

Summarises the evidence for the effectiveness for the flexibilities the Scottish Government can offer to Universal Credit to allow twice monthly payments, and direct payment of rent to landlords drawing on management information, populations surveys and commissioned qualitative research.

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Conclusions and Recommendations

There was a clear belief across all interviewees for this research that Scottish choices could be better publicised. Suggestions for improving this focused on:

  • improving the content and nature of notices about Scottish choices within people's Universal Credit online accounts, including giving more prominence to the options in the main menu, providing more detail on the implications, more frequent reminders of the option, and clearer notice of what payments are due and when.
  • employing other communication methods instead of, or in addition to, the online Journal, such as letters, emails and sessions with Work Coaches to ensure that all claimants are fully aware of their options.
  • Advertising more widely, e.g. through TV campaigns, tenant newsletters, posters in health centres
  • Information could be provided to landlords when registering with the Landlord Register.

Other problems or frustrations with Scottish choices were rarely a reflection of the principle of the policy, but rather how it had been implemented in practice. Suggestions for improving this included:

  • Allowing everyone to apply for Scottish choices from the start of their claim, rather than requiring them to wait until the start of the second assessment period
  • Improving the payment system for making direct payments – although this is already in hand, there was a desire to ensure this also enabled people to align direct payment dates with the date rent was due
  • Making payments fortnightly rather than twice a month.

There were also suggestions for additional flexibilities to Universal Credit including:

  • Split payments between members of households, which would give greater financial independence to individuals and allow for financing of respective obligations
  • An option for weekly payments
  • An option for direct payment of Council Tax

Finally, although not the focus of this research, it is important to note that participants spontaneously mentioned various improvements to the Universal Credit system that they felt would significantly improve people's lives.

Contact

Email: Socialresearch@gov.scot

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