Cheshire West Citizens Advice is helping people get ready for Universal Credit as it rolls out across Chester and Ellesmere Port.
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, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income-related Employment and Support Allowance into a single monthly payment.
Full service roll out of Universal Credit starts in Chester Jobcentre Plus area from July 17, 2017, however this doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to apply. From this date, in general, parents with one or two children, families, couples and people who can’t work because of their health, who are eligible to apply for Universal Credit will be able to claim.
Not everyone is eligible to get Universal Credit and some benefits are available at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, so Cheshire West Citizens Advice recommend that people visit the Citizens Advice website to find out if they’re eligible to apply and for more information about making a claim.
People who are already claiming any of the six benefits are likely to be moved onto Universal Credit from 2019 onwards and need not do anything until the Department of Work and Pensions gets in touch. If their circumstances change before then, they may have to make a claim for Universal Credit.
Cheshire West Citizens Advice is highlighting what changes are due to take effect, namely around how Universal Credit is paid, so that people can prepare before applying for the new benefit.
The three changes people need to be aware of are:
● Universal Credit payments are made in arrears once a month, rather than being paid 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.
● New Universal Credit applications, and any change in your circumstances, need to be made online.
With people facing a five to six week wait for their first Universal Credit payment, Cheshire West Citizens Advice is encouraging people to apply for an advance payment if they’re concerned about meeting their living costs in the meantime.
Senior Universal Credit adviser at Cheshire West Citizens Advice Linda Crosbie 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 guiding someone through the online application form, or offering budgeting advice to help people best manage their monthly payment.
“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.
“People can get free confidential advice from Cheshire West Citizens Advice by visiting their local office in Northwich, Chester, Ellesmere Port or Winsford between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday, no appointment necessary. Or phone 03445 76 61 11 Monday to Friday 10am-4pm.”