Today, 04.09.18. at the Town hall, Alan Bruzon from the CAB held a Universal Credit training session where 15 people Labour Party members and supporters attended. This event was arranged by Ann Iordan our Labour Party Trade Union Liaison Officer.
The roll out for Universal Credit (UC) arrived in Eastbourne last October. Universal Credit replaces 6 previous benefits: – Housing Benefit; income related Employment Support Allowance; income based Job Seekers Allowance; Child Tax credit; Working Tax Credit and Income Support.
All new claimants or those with changes of circumstances will be put on UC. There are many potentially prohibitive obstacles to the application process in that it is a default online application form. 20% of people have difficulty with this. But you can request a telephone or home visit application and this will be granted if there is an acceptable reason. People are not always told this ‘best kept secret’.
To make an application, you first need to set up an online account. But you will need an email address and a whole load of detailed information at hand in order to register an account. Some people need support to gather this information in the first place. And this is before you can get started.
The difficulties progress into the process e.g. the 6 week waiting period for the first payment causes many people to rely on the foodbank in the interim. Thankfully, CAB campaigning has now seen an introduction of new guidance to all jobcentres that all claimants should now be informed that they can apply for an advanced payment. This will need to be paid back by making deductions from your future benefit but you can ask for this to be spread out over a number of months at a rate which you can afford.
Another major problem area with UC is for Self-employed people. They have particular difficulties around fluctuating hours and the minimum income floor. Under the old system their benefit was calculated based on earning over the previous tax year. This way, variations in earnings were averaged out and benefit granted accordingly. This clearly aided financial reliability. The new system brings with it great uncertainty for the claimants and ongoing frustrations with the repeated form filling.
The default single payment has also been criticised as it can disadvantage particular vulnerable groups. But please note that under certain circumstances some people can apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement e.g. domestic violence, homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, mental health problems at al. The Labour Party is calling for urgent reform to protect domestic abuse survivors with the introduction of default split payments. You can watch this video and sign the petition to support.
Scotland has now passed legislation for the DWP to introduce default split payments.
The Labour Party’s Campaign is to pause and fix UC. Certainly the work of the CAB has slowed down the roll out. Eastbourne CAB meets regularly with the Jobcentre to try to avoid some of the pitfalls that claimants are facing. This arrangement has helped eased some of the difficulties locally.
The CAB now has a staff member who can help claimants who need support to make their application – an Assisted Digital Support drop in. Help is also available with budgeting. Please call 03444111444 for details. http://www.eastbournecab.co.uk/
Finally, a big thank you to Alan Bruzon for this informative training session and to Ann Iordan for organizing it.