Alex* contacted Citizens Advice in distress because she didn’t know how to start making a claim for Universal Credit (UC) and was worried that she wouldn’t be able to wait for five weeks until her first payment came through. How would she pay her rent during that time?
Universal Credit is the new means-tested benefit for people aged between 18 and the State Pension Credit age. It helps with living and housing costs. If you are of working age, either not working or on a low income, and you need to make a new claim for benefits, you are likely to need to apply for UC. You will need to make and manage UC claims online. There is a minimum five-week wait between applying and receiving your first payments from DWP.
Citizens Advice is aware that many people experience problems with making the initial claim and then, like Alex, managing financially until they receive the first payment.
Citizens Advice is now providing a national service, called Help to Claim, aimed at supporting people to overcome difficulties at any stage when making a new claim up until they get their first payment. We can help with opening a bank account, creating an email address, checking supporting documentation and completing the online claim.
Alex rang Citizens Advice dedicated phone line and spoke with an Adviser who assessed her needs and checked her eligibility to claim UC. Alex didn’t have access to the internet and so she asked how she could set up the online claim. Our Adviser invited Alex to drop into one of our offices to use one of the computers we have available for the public. New claimants can use them to make and manage their claim, with or without the support from Citizens Advice staff.
After our Adviser went through Alex’s options with her, she decided to apply for an advance payment of up to the amount of her first month’s estimated amount. Our Adviser then explained that she would need to repay the advance which would be deducted from her UC payments over a period of up to 12 months. Alex’s advance payment arrived in her bank account three days after she applied for it. Alex was relieved when the Adviser also explained that she could continue to get Housing Benefit for two weeks after she moved to UC.
If, like Alex, you want help and support to make your UC initial claim, our Citizens Advice Advisers can help you. If you prefer you can ring the dedicated free phone line, 0800 144 8 444, during the hours of 8.00am to 6pm. You will also be able to access advice via Web Chat.
The Help to Claim service is being offered in addition to Citizens Advice usual wide range of free, confidential, impartial advice on issues including benefits, debt, housing and employment.
* Not her real name. This is a representative story of someone in need of support. Client confidentiality is never compromised
To find out more about UC visit our website or https://www.gov.uk/universalcredit
If you’re worried about Universal Credit – or something else?
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