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We’re on hand to help with Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new benefit which helps people on a low income or not in work meet their living costs. It combines six benefits, including Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credit, into a single monthly payment.

Previously in Shropshire Universal Credit was only available to single jobseekers but from 9h May 2018 parents, couples and people who can’t work because of their health who make a new claim will  receive it (unless your nearest Jobcentre is out of county, for example in Leominster in Herefordshire which goes to full service Universal Credit in June).

The three changes people need to be aware of are:

  • Universal Credit payments are made in arrears at the end of the month, rather than being paid fortnightly or every week.
  • Payments will go straight into a claimant’s bank account. This means people may need to set up their own standing orders for expenses like rent if it was paid directly to their landlord under the old Housing Benefit system.
  • Universal Credit applications and managing your ongoing claim, including reporting work searches or changes in your circumstances need to be made online.

With most people facing a 5 week wait for their first Universal Credit payment, we encourage people to consider applying for an advance payment loan if they’re concerned about meeting their living costs in the meantime. People should think carefully about the amount of money they apply for during this period and decide if they need the full amount available, or a portion of that, as they will have to pay it back over 6 or 12 months once they start receiving Universal Credit.

We have helped 241 people with Universal Credit since it first rolled out to single people in Shropshire in 2015. The bulk of queries relate to people wanting to know how they make a claim and if they’re eligible to do so.

Jackie Jeffrey, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Shropshire, said:

“Universal Credit is the biggest ever change to benefit system, so it’s important people get support while they get used to the new system.

“Most of the queries we’ve helped with so far have focused on people wanting to know how Universal Credit works and how to apply, and we’d expect that to continue during the full roll out.

“We can help people at every stage of the application process – from helping people get prepared to fill out the online application form, offering budgeting advice to help people best manage their monthly payment and providing advice if things go wrong.”

“Anyone with a question or concern should get in touch with us at the earliest chance so we can help them make preparations for being on Universal Credit.”

You can get advice from us in person, over the phone or by post.