Universal Credit Full Service (UCFS) began a phased roll out in Coventry on July 11th 2018. It has now been with us for three months and over 1,000 new claims have been taken. The initial roll out primarily affected those on ‘legacy’ benefits like Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support or ESA, who were subject to a significant change of circumstances after the roll out date, and people who would have made a new claim for a ‘legacy’ benefit if UC had not been rolled out.

We have already seen a host of issues emerging from our clients’ experiences, despite the best intentions of the local DWP and other stakeholders to make this roll out as smooth as possible. Money problems generated or made worse by the delayed first payment have been the biggest problem, with demand for food vouchers simultaneously rising.

Other problems have centred on understanding the digital application process, dealing with deductions from benefits for various arrears, and agreeing ‘claimant commitments’ which reflect the needs of clients with difficult or complex circumstances.

October marks the start of the next phase of local roll out: the migration of those on pre-existing ‘live service’ UC to full service status. This requires, essentially, making a new online application within a defined time period, and will affect people who already have a UC claim open that started before the Full Service rolled out.

This also marks a good time to issue three general reminders to UC claimants, and others, regarding important entitlements which are being forgotten or ignored.

  1. Council Tax Support – what used to be called Council Tax Benefit – is not part of Universal Credit. UC claimants must apply for CTS separately to their UC claim. If you are unsure about your CTS entitlement, contact the council or a local advice agency about this. The council’s website will tell you more –  www.coventry.gov.uk/info/54/benefits/1382/housing_benefit_and_council_tax_support/3
  2. Free School Meals – Universal Credit is no longer an automatic passport to free school meals but many UC claimants can still claim free school meals if their income falls below a certain amount. For more on this, again, either get in touch with your local council or a local advice agency. The council has more on how to apply at ww.coventry.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals
  3. Healthy Start Vouchers – what were once called ‘milk tokens’ but now also cover a wide range of milk, fruit and vegetables – are also available to some people on Universal Credit with a low income (mainly pregnant women and those with young children). More on how to apply can be found at www.healthystart.nhs.uk

These are three key entitlements which we believe some UC claimants are missing out on. Please pass this information onto anyone you know who might find this information useful.

Universal Credit is here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future – so we all need to be aware of our entitlements and our responsibilities.

If you want to know more about UCFS, read our campaign page – The Impact of Welfare Reform.

Be prepared.