How new Universal Credit claimants in Hartlepool can get more help

More help is now on offer in Hartlepool to new Universal Credit claimants.

Two staff at the town's Citizens Advice branch, in Park Road, now devote their time to helping people apply for the controversial benefit payment as part of a £39m nationwide project.

Hartlepool Citizens Advice manager Joe Michna.

Hartlepool Citizens Advice manager Joe Michna.

The initial one-year Help to Claim scheme is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is in addition to the DWP's own criticised helpline service.

Hartlepool Citizens Advice manager Joe Michna said: "We have had a steady trickle of new claimants coming in since the start of April and expect that to increase as word gets out.

"Whereas in the past it might take one or two weeks for us to see someone about Universal Credit, now it takes one or two days."

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Face-to-face appointments mean staff can discuss what documentation applicants may need to support their online only application.

Mr Michna said: "We get a number of people, albeit it's getting smaller now, who do not have digital access or are not computer friendly.

"What we do is sit them down and talk them through the online application process as it goes on.

"We are also there to troubleshoot any queries which may arise from the DWP after the application is submitted so that any delays are as small as possible."

Hartlepool Citizens Advice is open from 9.30am-3pm on Mondays and Wednesdays-Fridays and can be contacted on (01429) 408402.

A free national Help to Claim telephone service is also available weekdays from 8am-6pm Mondays-Fridays on 0800 1448444.

Further details about the service and web chats with advisors are available from www.citizensadvice.org.uk