Universal credit roll out in Ashfield

Ashfield Citizens Advice CEO Kathryn Stacey.
Ashfield Citizens Advice CEO Kathryn Stacey.

People claiming the new Universal Credit are being advised they can avoid delays which could have made Christmas a misery.

Universal Credit which replaces several separate benefits rolls out in Kirkby and Sutton areas on November 21.

The flagship reform of the benefits system, rolls together six benefits, including unemployment benefit, tax credits and housing benefit into one system.

Citizens Advice nationally has been campaigning for changes to the Universal Credit roll out to full service since July 2017, calling on the government to address issues of claimants going into debt, the high cost of calling the helpline and complex nature of making a claim.

In a recent announcement the Government has agreed to fund Citizens Advice to deliver a comprehensive support offer - making sure that more people get the tailored support they need to make a claim, get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when it arrives. More details will emerge in time.

In Ashfield Citizens Advice is working closely with the Jobcentre and have an adviser placed directly with the work coaches in the Council Hub in readiness for the roll out of full service on November 21 (Sutton & Kirkby) .

Kathryn Stacey CEO at Ashfield Citizens Advice said: “We are glad the government has listened to the Citizens Advice campaign nationally, we have been preparing ourselves but there are still issues locally with the main roll out due at the end of November.

“We are concerned that national research by Citizens Advice shows that some disabled people will receive £300 less a month under Universal Credit and locally, evidence of housing tenancy is proving an issue, especially for those claimants in private rented accommodation.

“Also the delays in payments, which can take up to six weeks, can be avoided and we are encouraging all claimants to apply for advanced payments when making a claim if they are worried.

“This is especially significant given any delay will take many claimants into the Christmas period.

“We worry that people who move to full service and experience the delay in payment will be tempted to borrow over the festive period exposing themselves to loan sharks or high interest rate lenders. This can cause all sorts of longer term issues of debt and mental health.”

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said:

“Universal Credit (UC) replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.

“Through our ‘test and learn’ approach, we have listened to feedback from stakeholders and claimants and made improvements, including increasing advances to 100 per cent, removing the seven-day waiting period and paying people’s Housing Benefit for two weeks while they wait for the first UC payment.

“UC includes more personalised help from a work coach and people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

The new system is also more flexible, which means people can take on short-term work to develop their skills and build up their experience.

“Our staff are trained to support people throughout the claim process.

“We’d encourage anyone who needs extra help or information to talk to their work coach.”

Some tips from Citizens Advice on Universal Credit:

Does this affect me? New claimants and those who have a change in circumstances will have to claim Universal Credit and replaces Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income based Jobseekers Allowance, Income related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Housing Benefit from the full service date. Existing claimants will not be affected unless they have a change of circumstances and will eventually be transitioned over.

With most people facing a 6 week wait for their first Universal Credit payment, Citizens Advice Ashfield is encouraging people to apply for an advance payment if they’re concerned about meeting their living costs over that period.

Get IT savvy, all claims are made online, locally there is IT support at many locations including the Council Hub, Sutton Academy, Ashfield Voluntary Action and many of the community centres in our district.

Get your evidence in place, claimants will have to register and verify on the ‘On Line Journal’ documents like Passports, driving licences, National Insurance No., Bank details, savings, any payslips and especially housing tenancy agreements will be part of a claim.

Get advice early; if claimants have any concerns contact the Citizens Advice Ashfield or the Universal Credit helpline

Get in touch

Drop in Monday to Friday 9.30 until 2.00

Ashfield Health and Wellbeing Centre

Portland Street

Kirkby-in-Ashfield

Nottinghamshire

NG17 7AE

Debt Helpline 01623 784 385 Monday to Friday 10.00 until 3.00

Telephone advice 03444 111 444 Monday to Friday 10.00 until 4.00

Universal Credit helpline: 0800 328 9344

Advanced Payments helpline 0800 328 5644

For more information you can visit https://www.ashfield.gov.uk/…/benefits-co…/universal-credit/

Alternatively you can also find out more information regarding Universal Credit here: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/