The charity Citizens Advice is to start providing Government-backed support to help Universal Credit claimants navigate the new welfare system.
Councils have been supporting UC claimants since last year through Universal Support, a Department for Work and Pensions-funded system which focuses on budgeting advice and digital support.
However, the DWP today announced that Citizens Advice in England, Scotland and Wales will provide a ‘strengthened’ Universal Support service.
The Government’s flagship welfare reform rolls six different benefit payments into one. However, it has been plagued with a number of problems including delayed payments.
Citizens Advice criticised the reform last July, arguing it was too complicated and that claimants lacked sufficient support.
The secretary of state for work and pensions, Esther McVey, today said she had ‘listened’ to the criticisms of UC and had made ‘significant changes’.
‘Since becoming Secretary of State in January, I have listened to the concerns of claimants, constituents, charities, welfare organisations and colleagues and I have made significant changes to the system, like extra support for those with mental health conditions, more support for vulnerable young people and more support for families who look after other family members’ children,’ she said.
‘I have always said we will steer a new direction and work with partners to deliver vital services, and get Universal Credit right. The state cannot, and should not work in isolation and must reach out to work with independent, trusted organisations to get the best support to vulnerable people.
‘This brand new partnership with Citizens Advice will ensure everyone, and in particular the most vulnerable claimants, get the best possible support with their claim that is consistently administered throughout the country.’
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, commented: ‘We offer independent and confidential advice to millions of people every year, and have already helped nearly 150,000 people with Universal Credit.
‘We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people struggle to make a claim and their payments are delayed.
‘We welcome the opportunity to provide even more people with the help they need with Universal Credit, and deliver a consistent service through the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales.
‘Delivering this service will give us even greater insight into the Universal Credit system. We’ll continue to share our evidence with the Government to help make sure Universal Credit works for everyone.’
Derek Mitchell, CEO of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: ‘This announcement brings an opportunity to further enhance the support we provide, and we are pleased that the impact Universal Credit has on potential applicants – and on local CAB services in Scotland – has been recognised.’