Quids in Universal Credit Watch graphic

Further Help With UC

In last October’s mailout we looked at three of the most useful schemes for getting help with your UC claim (read the piece here). Below are some more places you can visit to find support if you’re struggling.

LOCAL AUTHORITY

Whichever department at your local council deals with Housing Benefit or Council Tax should have some help on offer for new UC claimants. This is often the ‘Revenues and Benefits department’ but different authorities have different names for these teams. If Housing Benefit is one element of your Universal Credit claim, ask if there is any help available.
Your local council may consider you for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if it is rent you’re struggling to pay. Different authorities have different rules, so ask the housing department if you can apply. Shelter advise that you should make clear the hardship you’re facing, especially if you feel you may be made homeless.
DHP can also cover tenancy deposits, advance rent payment and the cost of removals. You cannot claim DHP if you’re behind because you have been sanctioned by Jobcentre Plus. Turn2us has advice on DHP, click here.

WHERE TO GO

  • If you are in social housing, talk to your landlord as soon as you know you’re moving to Universal Credit – they want to help. Some private landlords may help but each is different, so maybe get advice first.
  • Your local council may also have a special welfare team
  • The Money Advice Service has clear information about the changes, especially on YouTube.
  • Turn2us has a good guide and you can check you’re getting all you’re entitled to. Benefits like Council Tax Reduction don’t come under UC so you’ll need to apply separately. They also explain how to challenge a decision
  • Citizens Advice has an online guide but local offices are also likely to be the first port of call for many struggling with UC.

QUIDS IN! SAYS

  • You may need to keep trying the helpline numbers as it has been reported that they are difficult to get through to. Plan what you need to say and have everything ready to argue your case, as you won’t want to keep calling back. If you’re not successful, try to get help from an advice agency such as Citizen’s Advice, as many decisions are overturned on appeal. Write down when you rang and what was agreed, in case it is disputed in future. If something appears on your Journal that you want as proof of an agreement, print it out or take a photo of it on your phone so you have a record that can’t be changed later.
  • It’s worth doing all you can to ensure you’re not in debt by the time your first UC payment comes through, which can be five weeks or longer. Once you’re behind with the bills, it will be difficult to keep the money you need for rent and other essentials safe. You will get one large monthly payment, possibly one for your whole household, so staying in the black keeps the pressure and temptation at bay. Demand the help you’re entitled to.

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