A lot of people are having problems with Universal Credit. For many, it’s simply not having enough money to live on. For others, it’s not knowing how to negotiate the forms.
I have been talking on TV about how the system needs to radically change and others have said the same (including John Major, Gordon Brown and the head of mental health charity Mind). However, while it is still running, here are some things you can do to get help.
- Universal Credit not sufficient? Where to get more money
- Who can help with Universal Credit forms
- Where to get free food
- How you can make changes to Universal Credit
- Make easy fivers to supplement your income
if you are waiting a long time for your first universal credit payment
You can apply for an ‘advance payment’ on your Universal Credit if you think you can’t manage while you’re waiting for your first payment. Frankly, most people struggle to cope for the minimum of five weeks that you have to wait for that payment, so you’re not alone. It can often take even longer than that to come through.
Citizen’s Advice has some helpful information on advance payments and how to apply. Weirdly, they give you one month minus three days to apply for an advance payment. This advance payment is a loan so you will have to pay it back, although you won’t have to pay interest on it and you can do it over 12 months.
if you can’t cope on the money you are getting
There are quite a lot of charities that exist specifically to give financial help to people who are struggling.
You can also search their list of grant-making bodies. There are charities that are specific to particular professions, so you might get some money from them if you or a member of your family are in that profession. Then, there are local charitable organisations and charities that just give money if you are in particular circumstances, like living with a disability.
It’s possible that you could apply for a few different grants. Remember, these grants are essentially free money – you don’t have to give the cash back!
Turn2Us also has a benefits calculator to see if you could be eligible for other help such as reduced Council Tax.
watch out for high-cost loans
If you need furniture or other items desperately, but you have no money, try to keep away from the high-cost lenders if possible (easy to say, I know!). Try these instead:
Fair for you
A better place to go is Fair For You (I’m a patron of the charity behind it) which offers fair loans for household goods like washing machines and children’s beds.
Their rates are decent (about 40%) and they are flexible so you can overpay or even underpay if you need to.
your local credit union
Also look for your local credit union and join that. Credit unions will give small loans at reasonable and flexible rates so it’s very helpful to be a member of one.
The only drawback is that you usually need to be saving with them first. However, different credit unions operate with different rules so see what your local one says.
Don’t feel stupid if you’re having difficulty filling in the forms for Universal Credit. Everyone finds them difficult. I think it’s just the civil servants who put them together who know how to fill them in!
Thankfully, you can get help filling them in and you can get answers to questions too.
Your local help centre
The bad news is that currently the help is all over place. Different organisations are giving it depending on where you live.
In some areas it’s your local Job Centre, elsewhere it’s Citizen’s Advice or it could be one of many small charities that have been funded to help.
Find out from your local council or job centre where you should go for help.
As of April 2019, it will be Citizen’s Advice doing all the support work across the country. So at least by then you’ll know that there is one place to go to.
There’s a lot of advice online about how to apply for Universal Credit, where to go for help, answers to a lot of questions (though not all). Here are some useful sites to visit:
- Citizen’s Advice – loads of very clear advice here.
- Turn2Us – again, loads of very clear advice and access to grants.
- MoneyAdviceService – helpful but limited information.
- Gov.uk – the official source, so factual but not that helpful if you have specific queries.
- The “Tax Credits, Universal Credits & Benefits Support Group” on Facebook. If you’re on Facebook, look for this group and join it. It’s claimants helping other claimants. You can find answers to questions here and ask your own. Plus, they’re often more helpful than the professionals!
You can get free food from food banks, but bear in mind:
- You have to be referred to a food bank either by someone at the Job Centre, Citizen’s Advice, a local charity or one of many other agencies that deal with food banks. Basically, you can’t just turn up
- You can only use a food bank three times a year. They won’t turn you away if you come more often, but this will flag up to them that there is a deeper problem and they will look into ways to resolve it.
- Food banks will give you food for three days. The idea is to tide you and your family over until proper money starts to come in.
There’s also a ‘Community Fridges’ scheme opening up in various parts of the UK where local people leave food they don’t need for others to take. It’s a great idea and worth getting in touch with the organisers to see if there’s one near you. If there isn’t, see if you can be part of installing one in your area.
If you think that the whole system is wrong and needs to be changed from the top, contact your local MP and put pressure on them.
And it’s totally free! Simply, join up for free.
Once you’ve joined, you just have to make 750 Magpies to get a free fiver. You can do it by:
- Visiting the site each day – yes, it’s that easy.
- Commenting – put some comments on articles and you’ll get even more Magpies to reach your goal quickly.
- Sign up for surveys – you get Magpies just for signing up and when you do a survey, you get even more (these are in the hundreds so you will get to that fiver really quickly as well as making some extra from the survey itself).
We think it’s a no-brainer. Just click, comment, download and sign-up to make a bunch of money for nothing and watch your Universal Credit problems disappear!