Citizens Advice Forest of Dean
Your local advice column
I am about to apply for Universal Credit for the first time, but have been told that there is a six week wait before the first payment. I’m worried that I won’t be able to pay my bills. Is this right, and is there anything I can do?
Universal Credit “Full Service” is starting in the Forest of Dean from Monday 22nd November. This means that anyone of working age (over 18 and under pension credit age) who is not working (whether unemployed, caring for someone or sick) or on low income may be able to claim Universal Credit. This replaces the old “legacy” benefits of Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Working and Child Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and Income Support. You should still apply for help with your council tax from the Forest of Dean District Council.
If you are already receiving the “legacy benefits” you will not have to claim Universal Credit unless your circumstances change significantly for example you have another child, move in with someone else, split up from an existing relationship, become sick, lose your job or start work from being unemployed.
It does not affect anyone over working age (pension credit age). Some under 18s can also claim, but this is the exception.
After applying for Universal Credit, there’s been, until this month, a five or six week wait before the first payment, which is explained during the application process. However, the MPs in the House of Commons, on 16th November, in response to campaigning by charities such as Citizens Advice, voted unanimously for the Government to reduce the waiting time to 4 weeks. This should be implemented before the “full service” goes live on the 22nd November.
Although you can’t be paid faster, there are things you can do to help tide you over.
As part of the claim process, you’ll usually attend an interview at the Jobcentre Plus.
At the interview ask if you can apply for an “advance payment” - this is a loan that will be deducted from your future benefits.
You’ll need to show how much money you need for essential bills like food and housing, and explain why the loan will protect you from serious financial difficulty - like being unable to pay your rent.
Alternatively, you can apply for an advance payment through the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723.
It’s best to apply as early as possible in your claim, as you may be turned down otherwise.
If you are refused an advance payment, you can ask the Jobcentre Plus for a reconsideration. Emergency assistance may be available if you are still turned down - Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice can inform of you of your next steps.
For further help understanding Universal Credit visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or, if you need more advice, contact the Citizens Advice Forest of Dean on 01594 823937; visit our website www.forestofdeancab.co.uk, or find us on Facebook or twitter.
Please note there are drop-in services at: our Cinderford office on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 10am to 12.30pm; at our Coleford office on Monday afternoons 1.30pm to 4pm; in Newent Library Thursday mornings 10am – 12.30pm; St Briavels Assembly Hall on the first Thursday of the month 2pm - 4pm; and in Lydney Library every Thursday afternoon from 2pm to 4pm. Note that the Coleford office is now located in the Main Place (Coleford Library building).
Citizens Advice is a charity which offers free, confidential and independent advice. Each area has its own Citizens Advice charity, and is dependent on volunteers and local funding. We are always looking for new volunteers, trustees and financial support.
Copyright Citizens Advice 2017