Oct 22

Problems with Universal Credit? Where to go for help

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 be radically changed, and others have said the same (including John Major, Gordon Brown and the head of the charity Mind). However, while it is still running, here are some things you can do to get help.

 

Jasmine on This Morning

Me on This Morning talking about Universal Credit

 

problems with Universal Credit: where to get more money

if you are waiting a long time for your first 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.

The Citizen’s Advice website has some helpful information on that and how to apply here. 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 around that exist specifically to give financial help to people who are struggling.

Go to the website of the charity Turn2Us to find hundreds of grant-making bodies.

The charity itself has its own funds to give away too so take a look here for that.

But you can also search their list of grant-making bodies here too

There are charities listed on there 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 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 you can use to see if you could be eligible for other help such as reduced Council Tax.

universal credit application

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!).

 

Fair for you

A better place to go is Fair For You (Im 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.

Find your local credit union here.

 

problems with Universal Credit: where to get help with the forms

universal credit problems

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.

 

Citizen’s Advice

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.

 

Online

There’s a lot of advice online about how to apply for Universal Credit, where to go for help, answers to quite 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.
  • Facebook. The “Tax Credits, Universal Credits & Benefits Support Group” on Facebook. If you’re on Facebook, look for this group and join it. Its claimants helping other claimants. You can find answers to questions here and ask your own. They’re often more helpful than the professionals!

 

problems with Universal Credit: where to get free food

Foodbanks

food banks

You can get free food from food banks but

  • 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 that that can be helped.
  • 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.

Do also have a look at our article on where to get free food here.

There’s also a scheme opening up in various parts of the UK called a Community Fridge where local people leave food they don’t need there 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.

 

problems with Universal Credit: where to go to change things

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.

Find your local MP here.

 

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