Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
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.
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.
There are quite a lot of charities that exist specifically to give financial help to people who are struggling.
Visit Turn2Us to find hundreds of grant-making bodies. The charity itself has its own funds to give away too.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The bad news used to be that the help was all over place. Different organisations were giving it depending on where you lived.
In some areas it was your local Job Centre, elsewhere it was Citizen’s Advice or it could’ve been one of many small charities that had been funded to help.
However, as of April 2019, Citizen’s Advice began offering all of the support work across the country. So at least now you know that there is one place to go to.
But if you’re still unsure, find out from your local council or job centre where you should go for help.
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:
You can get free food from food banks, but bear in mind:
Do also have a look at our article on where to get free food.
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.
The more MPs that are contacted by local voters, the more they will put pressure on the DWP and the Treasury to improve things.
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Yeah Joanne I been on it for under a year its a nightmare!
Universal credit does seem to have caused some serious problems for some claimants.