Hartlepool advice chiefs’ advice for smooth Universal Credit claims

Citizens Advice Hartlepool manager Joe Michna
Citizens Advice Hartlepool manager Joe Michna

Charity chiefs in Hartlepool are issuing advice to help Universal Credit claimants receive their money on time after a national report highlighted problems over all of the paperwork involved.

A national Citizens Advice report found a third of people who were helped by the charity struggle to provide the evidence needed to complete their applications.

Citizens Advice Hartlepool, based in York Road, says it has helped thousands of people to make claims and has urged the Government to make it easier for claimants to provide evidence online.

Universal Credit combines six benefits into one, including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Working Tax Credits.

In total there are 10 stages which need to be completed, some of which are time sensitive say Citizens Advice.

Citizens Advice Hartlepool manager Joe Michna said: “Making an application for Universal Credit can be complex, and there are many different stages to get through before crossing the finish line.

“We have advised thousands of local people on all aspects of their claims so we have learned quite a bit about the failings of the new system.

“This new research shows that providing the right paperwork for extra costs is one of the stages which causes the most headaches for people.

“The Government should look at making it easier to provide evidence online and people should also be aware of what’s required of them so they receive their payment on time.”

The service says Universal Credit is working well for many, but a significant number are having difficulties with it.

Of the claimants surveyed by Citizens Advice nationally almost half (48%) found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions, 40% to provide evidence for housing, and 35% for childcare.

The research also showed that people who receive their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt, or falling into it.

Citizens Advice Hartlepool has the following advice for anyone making a claim:

• Provide evidence as soon as possible to make sure you’re paid in full and on time. If you need to apply for extra costs, like housing, you will need to show additional paperwork.

• Make sure you check you have completed all the stages of the claim,

• If you miss a deadline, you might have to start the process again.

• If you get stuck, ask for help. After making an initial online claim, you need to book a Jobcentre appointment.

•If you’re struggling to fill in the online application form or have problems providing the right paperwork, ask for help as soon as possible so your payment isn’t delayed.

Citizens Advice Hartlepool holds drop-in sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 9.30am and 3pm.