Citizens Advice has called for a root credit adjustment of universal credit after revealing that half of all defendants who came to help manage the new benefit were at risk of being deferred due to lease payments and adversity.
Relatively small changes in the way the benefit works, announced by ministers in the budget for 2017 after being under strong pressure from campaigns, have "only made a problem in the problem rather than attached it," said charity.
The minimum five-week wait for a first benefit payment left almost half of the applicants, it was not advisable to pay household bills or forced them to go without significant issues like food or heating, it said, while 54% had to borrow money from family and friends to stay fluid.
"Half of the people we help with universal credit are still struggling to keep a head over while waiting for their first payment," said Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice.
She added: "Changes in waiting time for first payment have improved things for many people, but our evidence shows that they do not go far enough. Universal Credit must continue to be reformed to work for all applicants and let people have enough money to live on. "
The charity said that the rental amount was more common among its customers at Universal Credit compared to those on the benefits it replaces as it was debt. Although the changes had helped some applicants clear, "too many people on universal credit still struggle to manage their money".
The changes announced in the 2017 budget include a shortened waiting period for a first payment from 42 days to 35, two weeks of additional housing benefit, and more generous advances to help people cope with the waiting time. Further changes marked in the 2018 budget will enter into force over the next two years.
The charity warns that while fixing basic designs and reliability issues in universal credit is crucial, the overall problem is that payments are too low because of the benefits of freezing and housing subsidies.
"The people we look at universal credit often struggle because the income level they live on leaves no budget for any unexpected expenses or income shock. Some simply don't have enough money to live on," a report says.
"Fixing issues in design and delivery of universal credit can help with the five-week waiting and ongoing budgetary problems, but people must be reliably paid at a level that gives them sufficient to cover the significant cost of living."
Labor and pension secretary Amber Rudd announced last month that she would consider further policy changes and expiry delays to restore public confidence in universal credit and told MPs that her priority was to make it safe for vulnerable claimants.
A department for work and retirement study of universal creditors released last week found out that one in five was not happy with their experience with the new benefit – and one in 10 reported was "very dissatisfied".