From April all local Citizens Advice in England and Wales will be supporting people with the process of claiming Universal Credit. This support will be available online, on the phone, and in person at our various local venues. Up to now, our support has been limited to helping people when things have already gone wrong with the process of making the claim, or to assist them with personal budgeting as they transition from legacy benefits to Universal Credit.

For many, particularly those who already use online banking platforms, claiming Universal Credit and the ongoing management of the Universal Credit account is a relatively straightforward process, which they are able to do themselves online. However, there are people for whom the online process is problematic. It may be because of a lack of equipment, internet access or IT skills. There are also situations where the process is not straightforward, particularly with the online identification verification process where, for example, a claimant does not have their own bank account or has no proof of address because, they do not have bills in their name. This can result in delays in completing the application, which in turn delays payments, which can result in severe hardship.

Failed applications, delayed payments or unsustainable deductions may cause people to find themselves unable to buy food and with multiple debts from which they will take years to recover. They are also at risk of homelessness if they cannot pay rent because of delayed housing benefit payments. This is why it is imperative to get the claim right from the start.

If you are unsure, Citizens Advice can help you to get the application right, and prepare for the changes from fortnightly payments to monthly payments.