Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau supports first Universal Credit Pathfinder
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy is calling on Government to ensure universal credit, the new single benefit payment, includes tailored support so people aren’t caught in a “blizzard of benefit changes.”
According to the national charity Citizens Advice, the introduction of universal credit means two key areas need addressing. First, extra face-to-face welfare and budgeting advice will need to be given to people making the transition to receiving benefit payments on a monthly, not weekly, basis. Secondly more support for people who aren’t used to using IT or don’t have online access.
Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau is pioneering supporting people who might be confused by the myriad changes coming their way - initially single jobseekers, claiming the new benefit in Ashton-under-Lyne.
The charity warns that without specialist help, some claimants risk sliding into serious debt as their lack of budgeting confidence or online access sees them resorting to using high cost credit like payday loans to tide them over, pay rent arrears or to avoid homelessness.
Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy said:
“To help people make a smooth transition from benefits to getting and keeping a job, Government must ensure people get tailored, face-to-face help with budgeting, money management and the online support they need - this will be a real measure of success or failure for universal credit. It’s imperative universal credit works for people battered by the impact of the recession and on a financial cliff edge, especially the disabled and part-time workers desperate for extra hours of work.
“It’s only right that universal credit, with its complex IT and monthly benefit payment systems, is rolled out in a controlled way. Any glitches, like delays in processing claims, appealing decisions or payments will only make the lives of vulnerable people and families even more difficult – they mustn’t get caught in a blizzard of benefit changes.
“Citizens Advice, an independent national charity used to seeing 2 million people a year, another 14 million online and a million via the phone, is involved in delivering the aims of universal credit. Properly funded welfare advice and budgeting support should help people become self-reliant and make the most of opportunities to get into and stay in work.
“Up and down the country Bureaux staff and volunteers work tirelessly, tackling disadvantage by making sure people don't fall through the cracks. They support people with every aspect of the benefits and tax credit systems - debt and budgeting advice and improving people’s skills, understanding and confidence in dealing with money matters, helping them overcome barriers to transform their lives.”
Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) District Manager Nigel Morgan added:
“The Bureau’s staff and volunteers are here to offer face-to-face or online support to anyone feeling anxious about universal credit - managing a monthly budget, filling in the claim form online or opening a bank account for the first time.
“Thanks to a partnership between Tameside CAB, Jobcentre Plus and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, universal credit claimants can access 140 online points across Ashton-under-Lyne.
“universal credit will be challenging but taking part in the pathfinder is an opportunity for Tameside CAB to provide people with support, iron out any issues and shape and influence future Government planning so it works when it starts nationally in October.”
10 things you need to know about the impact of universal credit:
- Newly unemployed single people without children who are fit for work and don’t own their own home in Ashton-under-Lyne will be the first claimants eligible to make new universal credit claims.
- universal credit will replace and combine a range of means-tested benefits paid out to households, including income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and employment and support allowance, housing benefit and tax credits into one single monthly payment.
- Claimants who start work, even for a few hours a week, will keep more of the money they earn. universal credit will be steadily withdrawn as their income increases.
- The Claimant Commitment is a document that sets out the responsibilities of claimants and the consequences of not meeting those responsibilities. Everyone who claims universal credit will need to sign a Claimant Commitment as a condition of receiving benefit. People who are unable to work, either because of their caring responsibilities, or because of a health condition or disability, will still have a Claimant Commitment but will not have to look for work. Find out more at advice guide and gov.uk.
- 8 million households affected - 2.8 million households will lose out.
- The Government estimates that about 3.1 million households will gain financially from the changes – overall all households gain an average of £16 per month.
- 2.4 million mostly workless households will experience no change.
- A recent National Audit Office report found 17% of the British population remain offline.
- Although a lot of people should be better off under universal credit and there will be no cash losers at the point of transfer, around 3 million households will be notionally worse off than they would have been under the current system, including disabled children.
- Whilst some disabled people will gain from the new system, up to half a million (450,000) disabled people and their families - including children and disabled adults living on their own - will be worse off as they will get significantly less help because some of the additional support in the current system will not be provided to the same degree in universal credit.
Notes to editors:
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.