CAB call for volunteers as Universal Credit rollout begins

Payment monthly in arrears is a real change for a lot of people, and this is one major concern of the new benefit being introduced.

cambridge_cab17:22 Friday 28th February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Universal Credit comes into force on Monday. It is a means-tested benefit for people of working age who are on a low income, and replaces six existing means-tested benefits. There are widespread concerns that many will lose out because they are confused about the changes. Here to tell us more is Helen Crowther from Cambridge and District Citizens Advice Bureau. Helen hello
CHRIS MANN: So when change happens, people do get confused, don’t they? Because these things can be quite complex.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes. There is a lot of concern about Universal Credit being introduced. But people really shouldn’t worry too much, because it’s being introduced in phases. So the first phase is going to affect new Jobseekers Allowance claimants only. So not people receiving Jobseekers Allowance now, not people on Unemployment Support Allowance or Income Support. So yes, it’s being phased in gradually to get people used to it.
CHRIS MANN: It’s intended to be simpler than the current system of benefits and tax credits. And the benefits that it replaces, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Nenefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. So a lot of people potentially eventually will be affected by this.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes a lot of people will be. One thing to say, it won’t affect people on contribution-based benefits, so benefits people are receiving based on their National Insurance contributions.
CHRIS MANN: And the big thing is it’s paid on a monthly basis.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes. Monthly in arrears, which is a real change for a lot of people, and is the major concern of the new benefit being introduced, because people aren’t used to this.
CHRIS MANN: And managing the money will be an issue.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes. But the idea is that it’s being paid like wages would be. So a lot of people who haven’t been in employment for a long time who will receive different benefits at different times will really struggle to budget. So we want people to come and visit us early, as early as possible.
CHRIS MANN: What’s the most important thing people should know about this?
HELEN CROWTHER: Well, the fact that it’s paid monthly in arrears I think is probably the most important thing that people should know. And also people claim and report changes in circumstances online.
CHRIS MANN: Often we talk about people getting into a mess, where they get behind and then they don’t do the right thing to sort themselves out. And that’s one of the reasons that the Citizens Advice Bureau exists, because you can give people budgeting advice.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes we give people budgeting advice, advice around debt, advice around getting the right deals. Also when Universal Credit is introduced, your local authority has a duty to give budgeting advice should you ask for it as well.
CHRIS MANN: OK. I would imagine at the CAB that you’ve just had your busiest time of the year haven’t you, just after Christmas?
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes, very busy, especially if you’ve been closed for a while, then a lot of people come through the door. We were really busy today.
CHRIS MANN: How many people would you see on a daily basis?
CHRIS MANN: You personally?
HELEN CROWTHER: Not me personally. (THEY LAUGH)
CHRIS MANN: OK. But that’s a lot.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes it is a lot. Yes.
CHRIS MANN: And what sort of issues at this time of year?
HELEN CROWTHER: At this time of year it’s a lot around debt after Christmas, and also relationship and family issues. Yes, quite sadly.
CHRIS MANN: So sadly Christmas has a bit of a hangover in terms of how it affects people’s life, both financially and emotionally.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Now as we said, plenty of people coming to see you. So you want to recruit folk. Is that right?
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes. So we’re looking for new volunteer advisers to start mid-way through April. So if you’re interested, have a look on our website.
CHRIS MANN: OK. And UniversaL Credit comes into force on Monday. Just a reminder. Who would be affected by this? Who needs to worry?
HELEN CROWTHER: So new Jobseekers Allowance claimants, single new Jobseekers Allowance claimants.
CHRIS MANN: Brilliant. Helen Crowther, thank you so much for joining us.
CHRIS MANN: From the Cambridge and District Citizens Advice Bureau.