03August

A third of people we helped struggle to provide the evidence needed to complete their Universal Credit application

Citizens Advice Wiltshire is sharing tips on how people can best prepare for making a Universal Credit application so they can be paid on time.

This follows the release of a new report from national Citizens Advice which finds a third of people who were helped by the charity struggle to provide the evidence needed to finish off their Universal Credit application.

Universal Credit is a new benefit which combines 6 benefits into 1, including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Working Tax Credits, that is currently being rolled out across the UK.

For many, the benefit is working well but a significant number are having difficulties with it. Over the past year, Citizens Advice Wiltshire helped more than 1,200 people with a Universal Credit related problem.

Citizens Advice Wiltshire has the following advice for anyone making a claim for Universal Credit:

  • Provide evidence as soon as possible to make sure you’re paid in full and on time. If you need to apply for extra costs, like housing, you will need to show additional paperwork.
  • Make sure you check you have completed all the stages of the claim. After making an initial online claim, you need to book a Jobcentre appointment. In total there are 10 stages which need to be completed, some of which are time sensitive. If you miss a deadline, you might have to start the process again.
  • If you get stuck, ask for help. If you’re struggling to fill in the online application form or have problems providing the right paperwork, ask for help as soon as possible so your payment isn’t delayed.

National Citizens Advice asked people the Citizens Advice service helped with Universal Credit how hard they found it to provide proof for extra costs, like housing and childcare.

Out of those who were 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 research also shows 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.

UC web

The report recommends that the government simplifies the claims process, makes it easier to provide evidence for extras costs, and ensure adequate support is on offer to people making claims.

 

Suzanne Wigmore, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Wiltshire, said:

“Since July last year when full service Universal Credit was rolled out across Wiltshire, we have helped with more than 2,000 problems with the new benefit.

“Universal Credit is now the largest single issue that people are turning to us for help with; and in most cases the problems occurred during the initial application process.         

“Making an application for Universal Credit can be complex, and there are many different stages to get through before crossing the finish line.

“This new research shows that providing the right paperwork for extra costs is one of the stages which causes the most headaches for people.

“The government should look at making it easier to provide evidence online and people should also be aware of what’s required of them so they receive their payment on time.”

 

If you need advice when applying for Universal Credit contact Wiltshire Citizens Advice on 03444 111 444 or drop into your local Citizens Advice office

 

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