Universal Credit (UC) is the new benefit system, combining 6 of the most common benefits into one. It has had a lot of bad press as you might have seen on the news. We are working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to help fix many of the problems and we are confident that eventually UC will be a much better benefit system than the one it is replacing.

Our staff have a huge amount of experience in helping customers move onto UC, currently we have over 3000 customers now claiming UC…but we expect the total number to be nearer 10,000 once UC is fully rolled out to all benefit claimants.

Despite the news headlines we would encourage you not to panic, the majority of the 3000 customers who have moved onto UC have done so with ease, they have claimed their benefit on-line, they have been offered some support to help them manage the new system and they have received their payments, in full, on the same day each month.

We see customers now managing their money monthly rather than weekly, we see customers paying their rent monthly even though we charge it weekly and we see many customers taking on extra work and being better off for doing so. Paying your rent under UC is a clear change to the benefit system as previously most people on Housing Benefit have their housing benefit money paid directly to us. Under UC, most will pay it themselves from their monthly award. So, when you move onto UC we will be contacting you and it is important we make an agreement for you to pay rent monthly on the same you get your Universal Credit award.

However, when UC goes wrong, it can go very wrong. We have seen some customers go many weeks if not months without a payment and we see some customers have sanctions made against them (in effect fines for not following UC instructions) and for these and other reasons some customers do struggle to cope.

But help is at hand, Aster has a Support Service to offer help and advice and the DWP themselves can also refer claimants to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or other advice agencies. So, the clear message is don’t give up if you are struggling to manage your move onto UC. DO ask for help, do the things the DWP and their Job Coaches ask of you and do keep in touch with them whenever there is an issue to resolve.

The DWP’s new computer system makes all the key decisions but their staff are there to help. They are called Job Coaches these days because they should be coaching claimants to manage their claim and then, if appropriate to help them find work. So help is out there…just remember to ask.

Find all of the information on Universal Credit here. Plus, you can also contact our Welfare reform team who are able to point you in the right direction and answer any questions that you have.