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Citizens Advice Halton offers support as Universal Credit roll-out continues

Local charity, Citizens Advice Halton is encouraging people to turn to them for help if they have questions about Universal Credit and how it affects them, as new government figures reveal 1,924 people across Halton are now on the benefit.

Since its introduction in Halton in November 2014, Citizens Advice Halton has helped people resolve over 270 issues relating to Universal Credit.

Most enquiries to Citizens Advice Halton are about who is eligible for the benefit and requests for help with the application process.

Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 February shows that nearly 200,000 people are now on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit rolls six working-age benefits into one single monthly payment, supporting people who are on a low income or out of work. It is being introduced in stages across the country, in the first instance to single people who are making new claims. It will eventually be rolled out to couples, families and people who are sick or disabled.

As new Universal Credit figures are released Citizens Advice Halton is sharing its five key things you need to know about Universal Credit:

1. Universal Credit is a new benefit for people in and out of work, which will eventually merge six benefits into one: Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Currently you can still apply for ESA separately from Universal Credit.
2. Universal Credit does not include Council Tax Support – you will still need to apply for this locally.
3. You apply for Universal Credit via a single application; you’re usually expect to do this online, but you can apply over the phone or in person if you need to.
4. Universal Credit payments are made on a monthly basis, rather than weekly or fortnightly like previous benefit.
5. You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you’re waiting for your first payment. This is called a ‘short term advance’.

Hitesh Patel, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Halton said:

“Many people will need help getting to grips with Universal Credit

“Since it was introduced in Halton there has been a gradual increase in the number of people turning to us for help with their Universal Credit claim. Issues include questions about whether they can apply for Universal Credit, how to apply and help with the online form as well as support when there are problems with a claim, which can lead to a delay.”

“Simplifying welfare and making every hour of work pay are good principles. We know that without the right help and support people across Halton may struggle with Universal Credit and how to manage their money on the new benefit. The Jobcentre has an important role to play in making it clear that help is available and that it effectively signposts to where people can get the support they need.”

Benefits is one of the most common type of enquiry people turn to Citizens Advice for help with and Citizens Advice Halton helped people resolve 4,840 benefit queries in the last year.

In the last 12 months local Citizens Advice across England and Wales have helped people with over 150 Universal Credit issues every week.