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You are likely to be switched to Universal Credit by 2022 if you or your partner already receive one of the following benefits.
– Child Tax Credits
– Working Tax Credits
– Housing Benefit
– Income Support
– Income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance
– Income-based Employment Support Allowance
However new research by Citizens Advice has revealed that the long delay before the first payment is pushing many families into debt.
At present only single people over 18 and below state pension age looking to claim one of the above benefits are required to claim Universal Credit in Surrey Heath. This will be extended to all new applicants in August 2018.
Now the government is planning to accelerate the full rollout of Universal Credit, expanding the number of households receiving it nationally from the current half million to 7 million by 2022. In theory this is a good thing as Universal Credit simplifies the benefits system and ensures every hour of work pays.
Citizens Advice found that:
– Over a third of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment
– 1 in 10 are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit
– 3 in 5 are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.
Their report also reveals that people are having problems with the application process. These range from difficulties using a computer or with the online system, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim.
And when things go wrong the research shows people are not able to get the help they need: nearly a third of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, often having to wait over 30 minutes to get through.
One woman turned to Citizens Advice for help when her Universal Credit application was delayed because her childminder didn’t provide receipts on a type of letter headed paper which was required as evidence for her claim. Because of this delay she lost her childcare places and had to take time off work to care for her children. Further delays to her Universal Credit claim then meant she could still not afford childcare, and she has since lost her job for taking so much time off.
You can ask for a short term loan called Advance Payment when you make your claim for Universal Credit – or while you are waiting for your first payment by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723. The call could take around 30 minutes.
The helpline adviser will need to speak to you and your partner if you have a joint claim. Be ready to:
– explain why you need the advance
– tell them if you have rent arrears or can’t afford energy bills or to buy food
– provide your bank details so that the helpline adviser can arrange payment.
You usually get a decision on the same day.
If you need help in making your application or in sorting out a problem such as an unexpected delay, you can call or visit us at Citizens Advice Surrey Heath or use our webchat and email service at citizensadvice.org.uk