Citizens Advice Stevenage flags Universal Credit application issues

Citizens Advice Stevenage has expressed concerns about the application process for the new Universal

Citizens Advice Stevenage has expressed concerns about the application process for the new Universal Credit. Picture: Nina Morgan - Credit: Archant

Citizens Advice Stevenage has flagged problems with the application process for the government’s flagship Universal Credit, in light of a new report.

Universal Credit, which combines six benefits into one, is to come into use in Stevenage and North Herts in October, and Central Beds a month later. It is already operational elsewhere in the UK.

The Department for Work and Pensions says 83 per cent of new Universal Credit claims have been paid in full and on time, and that 82 per cent of claimants have reported satisfaction.

But the national Citizens Advice report says a third of people helped by the charity claim to have struggled to provide evidence needed to finish their applications.

This can cause claimants to receive payments late, which can result in a knock-on effect that sees people fall into debt or resort to borrowing from lenders.

Citizens Advice Stevenage chief executive Nina Villa said: “Universal Credit is working for most people, but a significant number are having problems completing their claim.

“This new research shows that providing evidence for extra costs is a common stumbling block when making an application, and can put the brakes on people being paid on time.

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“The government should make it easier to provide evidence online and ensure people are made aware of what’s required of them so they receive their payment on time.”

The Citizens Advice survey found that where claimants got their first Universal Credit payment late, they were 23 per cent more likely to be in debt. They were also 60 per cent more likely to borrow money from a lender, the charity found.

The DWP said in response that it welcomed Citizens Advice’s finding that Universal Credit worked well for most claimants.

A DWP spokesman said: “The vast majority of Universal Credit claimants are paid in full and on time, and 100 per cent advance payments can be made available within hours. We also fast-track appointments for customers in need. We look forward to working collaboratively with Citizens Advice and others to ensure that the small minority who seek additional help making their claim are able to access it.”

Under Universal Credit, claimants are paid in one monthly payment in most cases, rather than weekly or fortnightly.

It is expected that by the time it is fully implemented in Stevenage by 2023, 11,000 people in the borough will receive it.