The design and delivery of welfare benefits has changed dramatically in recent years and, with the introduction of full service Universal Credit in Coventry from July 11th 2018, it is continuing to change.We are constantly working on behalf of Coventry citizens to highlight and feedback issues of benefit delays, errors, sanctions and appeals to local authority and DWP decision and policy makers. But we need your evidence to strengthen our arguments. Please complete our questionnaire below if you have a past experience you want to share.
We also produce regular reports on the use of local food banks.
Universal Credit (full service): 5 things you need to know:
Who is it for?
Universal Credit is for almost anyone of working age who has income below the designated threshold (which varies per family size and circumstances). Over time it will replace income based JSA, income based ESA, working tax credits, child tax credits and housing benefits for all eligible claimants. If you are, were or would have been entitled to any of these benefits you may be entitled to UCFS. Please check your entitlement before starting the claim process.
It does not include Council Tax Support. This must be claimed separately from the city council.
Why was it introduced?
UCFS was introduced to:
- Simplify the benefits system and make payment schedules reflect the world of work
- Incentivise claimants to work (‘make work pay’)
- Save public money.
What are its key features?
- It is a fully digital service (application process and claim management) – applicants are expected to have access to a personal email address and bank account
- Claimants are expected to complete and follow a Claimant Commitment committing themselves to 37 hours of works search activity per week – there are exceptions depending on client circumstances
- Claimants receive a single payment, monthly in arrears*
- There is a wait of 5 weeks for the first ‘on-time payment’ built into the system**
- The claim date is set only once the online claim has been submitted – and only then as long as all aspects of the claim form (including the verification of the claimant’s identity) are completed within a month***.
*Housing costs (formerly housing benefit) are included in this single payment. There are exceptions and alternative arrangements can be negotiated).
**Benefits advances are available but these are loans and are repayable through monthly instalments almost immediately.
***This differs from previous benefits where the claim start date could be backdated for a period of a month or more, entitlement permitting.
What ‘common problems’ have been experienced elsewhere?
Common problems with UCFS include the following:
- Claimants not being confident making online claims
- Claimants not having easy access to the internet
- Problems with providing the evidence DWP-JCP want about their circumstances
- Problems with managing money and avoiding debts during the initial wait for a first payment
- Problems repaying benefit advances and managing deductions from benefits, especially if in hardship
- Problems with budgeting around single monthly payments that may vary considerably from month to month , especially when housing costs are included
- Problems with applying and managing UC when all/most contacts with the DWP are online or digital;
- Problems with getting accurate payments when claimants’ wages vary week to week;
- Problems not understanding that UCFS does not include Council Tax, and
- Problems with sanctions.
Where can I get help with making or managing my claim?
If you want to know more about UCFS, want to make a claim, and feel confident acting on your own behalf, visit www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk .
If you, a friend or family member feel physically or mentally unable to start the application process without substantial help call the UC Customer Service Centre on 0800 328 9344 and ask about the ‘Home Visiting Service’.
If you want to make a claim for UCFS, feel able to act with some assistance, but don’t have easy access to the internet or have no confidence using the internet, call the city council’s Assisted Digital Service on 024 7683 1800 and book an appointment; or walk into your local Jobcentre and ask for help.
Finally, if you don’t fall clearly into any of these categories get in touch with your local independent advice agencies for face-to-face or phone support.
Universal Credit is new to Coventry. It will revolutionise the delivery of welfare for working age claimants. Be prepared.