Citizens Advice South Hams puts the spotlight on problems with the application process for Universal Credit

Claire Brown News

Citizens Advice South Hams is flagging problems with the application process for Universal Credit, following the release of a new report from national Citizens Advice.

The report finds that although the benefit is working well for many, a significant number have problems with the application process. A third of people who’ve been helped by the charity say they struggle to provide the evidence needed to finish off their Universal Credit application.

The troubled new welfare system – which combines Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Based Employment Support Allowance into a single monthly payment – will come into force in the South Hams on September 5th, although parts of Ivybridge are already in receipt of it.
A study was undertaken by National Citizens Advice asking people they had helped with Universal Credit, how hard they found it to provide proof for extra costs, like housing and childcare.

Of those surveyed:
● 48% found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions
● 40% found it difficult to provide evidence for housing
● 35% found it difficult to provide evidence for childcare

The charity also found that people receiving their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt, or falling into it. When people didn’t receive their first Universal Credit payment on time, their chances of being in debt increased by a quarter (23%). They were also 60% more likely to borrow money from a lender to help tide them over.

The report recommends that the government simplifies the claims process, makes it easier to provide evidence for extra costs, and makes sure adequate support is on offer to people making a claim.
Ahead of its rollout in September, Janie Moor, CEO of Citizens Advice South Hams said, “We are expecting more people to contact us because there have been so many problems with the new system, some of our offices have seen a huge increase in issues with benefit claims. In addition, for some people this could be the first time they’ve had to deal with applying for something online. We’re hearing issues about securing the correct ID which has seen some being sanctioned. I would urge anyone looking to receive Universal Credit to verify their identity and sort out documentation in advance.
In the first instance new claimants who are unsure about applying online and require help should contact their local Jobcentre Plus who will arrange help and direct claimants. Anyone experiencing problems should contact us.
As well as issues with new claims many people who are transitioning onto Universal Credit from existing benefits will find the move to monthly payments a huge change in the way they manage their day-to-day finances. Citizens Advice South Hams is offering one-to-one support to help people save money, identify priority debts, set up direct debits and start budgeting on a monthly basis.
I would urge anyone who experiences difficulties with the new system to contact us especially if they have problems receiving the benefits, budgeting or if they face a sanction and need to challenge it.”
Claimants already on the existing benefits that Universal Credit replaces will remain on them until they have a change of circumstance that requires them to claim Universal Credit or are contacted by the Department of Work and Pensions.
To contact your nearest Jobcentre Plus new claimants should call Freephone 0800 055 6688, to find out more about Universal Credit go to southhamscab.org.uk and use the search button, to contact Citizens Advice call 03 444 111 444 .
ENDS

For more information contact Janie Moor, CEO at Citizens Advice South Hams at:
Follaton House, Plymouth Road, Totnes TQ9 5NE
janiemoor@southhamscab.org.uk
Tel 01803 869231

Notes to editors
1. Citizens Advice surveyed 678 Universal Credit claimants between November 2017 and June 2018. Additional responses from June 2017 to October 2017 were also used when looking at the impact of payment delays.