(Courtesy of the Chichester Observer)
As the biggest-ever change to the benefits system is set to roll out in full across the area, the Citizens Advice Bureau has said it is on hand to help.
Universal credit is a new benefit which helps people on a low income or not in work meet their living costs.
It combines six benefits, including housing benefit and working tax credit, into a single monthly payment.
At the moment in Arun and in Chichester, universal credit is only available to single jobseekers. But from July 4, parents, couples and people who can’t work because of their health who make a new claim will also receive it.
Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice is highlighting the changes around how universal credit is paid, so that people can prepare before applying for the new benefit.
The three changes Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice said people need to be aware of are that payments are made in arrears once at the end of the month, rather than being paid every week.
Payments will also go straight into a claimants bank account. This means people may need to set up their own standing orders for expenses like rent.
Finally, new applications and any changes in circumstance need to be made online. With most people facing a six-week wait for their first universal credit payment, Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice is encouraging people to apply for an advance payment if they’re concerned about meeting their living costs.
Luca Badioli, Chief Executive of Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice said: “Universal credit is the biggest ever change to benefit system, so it’s important people get support while they get used to the new system.“
Most of the queries we’ve helped with so far have focused on people wanting to know how universal credit works and how to apply, and we’d expect that to continue during the full roll out.
“We can help people at every stage of the application process – from guiding someone through the online application form, or offering budgeting advice to help people best manage their monthly payment. “We strongly recommend that claimants seek personal budgeting advice before they consider applying for an advance payment in order to prevent future financial hardship.
“Anyone with a question or concern should get in touch with us at the earliest chance so we can help them make preparations for being on universal credit.”