Extra support for claimants

Joe Michna pictured outside the Park Road citizens advice bureau.
Joe Michna pictured outside the Park Road citizens advice bureau.

CITIZENS’ advice chiefs are calling for extra support for universal credit claimants to ensure people can take on extra hours at work without ending up out of pocket.

Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) boss Joe Michna said he “supports the principles” of the benefit but believes the system needs to be made simpler.

Mr Michna claims children of parents receiving universal credit, a new type of financial support for people of working age who are jobless or on a low income, should get free schools meals. He is also calling on the Government to offer extra support to parents to help pay for childcare.

A report released by the Citizens Advice Bureau analysing the new benefit claims many will not see any financial gain by taking on more hours due to an increase in outgoings such as childcare and travel costs.

The CAB say their recommendations will encourage parents to take on more hours at work or find a job without ending up worse off.

Mr Michna said: “An extra shift at work should mean more money in your pocket.

“However, the Citizens Advice analysis shows that under universal credit, many working parents will not see any financial gain if they increase their hours of work. This is because parents face additional costs on top of travel when they go out to work or increase their working hours.

“Paying for childcare is one of the biggest drains on household income and adds huge pressure on families trying to make ends meet.

“For parents, striking the balance between holding down a job and managing family life is a big challenge. People need a system which is easy to understand, gives them support with childcare and under which work always pays. It’s vitally important to people in Hartlepool that these small changes are made to give working families a helping hand.”

Mr Michna added: “Simple changes to how universal credit operates would clear up so much of the confusion.

“Extra support for childcare, free school meals made available to the children of all parents receiving the new single benefit and allowing second earners to keep a larger share of their income would better reward work and simplify matters for parents.”

Hartlepool CAB, in Park Road, holds drop-in sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30am-3pm.