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Help with Universal Credit

January 01 2020

Stuck by a UC problem? Ian Kalman offers solutions

Q: How do I start?
For a short time Citizens Advice Bureau will help anyone in England and Wales make an application for Universal Credit. This ends in April 2020. CAB will help anyone who has to apply, from the initial application until they get their first payment. CAB works in some job centres but this may only be twice a week for a few hours. Or you can try CAB’s Help to Claim phone line. England tel: 0800 144 8444, Scotland tel: 0800 023 2581. Also see:

Q: How do I budget?
One bit of good news if you are paying back an advance (called a hardship loan) the deduction was 40% of your monthly benefit. From October it changed to 30%.

Q: What if there is a problem with my claim?
Wrong decision: There are two problems you may face – let us take the easier one first. You might find you are shifted from ESA to JSA because a decision maker has decided you are fit for work. I know of two people this happened to and they both fought this and won. This happens a lot. More than half of appeals are won. If this happens to you, the first step is get some advice. If you do not have a key worker contact either CAB or a local law centre. If you cannot get help do not give up.

These are the steps you should take:

  1. Obtain the form to state you are appealing against the decision and send that in.
  2. If you can get someone who will speak for you at the tribunal, their name should be put on the form. But if you cannot think of someone do not panic. There are still steps you can take.
  3. Once you know the appeal date, start compiling evidence. This can be in the form of letters from doctors you have, plus prescriptions you have. Try to obtain a letter from the doctor who can state why you are not available for work.
  4. You should think about the opening statement you will make, write it down and look at it every day until you are in front of the decision makers. You might find you know it by heart, but still bring it with you. And show it to let the people know you have thought about this. Never lose your temper: always remember they are just following the system.

The foodbank at Ringcross Community Centre offers fresh fruit and veg, most do not © Pavement

If you are sanctioned that will mean your money is stopped. Appealing against a sanction is more difficult but if you feel you have a strong case you still have a right to challenge it, but first: 1. If you have housing benefit contact the council and inform them. 2. Appeal against it but remember the sanction is because either you have not done something that is on your agreement or you have been late for an appointment. Saying “I was not well that day,” will not be enough, so if you are ill, or running late, contact your advisor and inform them.