Universal Credit full roll out in Wandsworth Borough began this week, from 6 December. This means that new claimants, or claimants who have a change of circumstance, who are Wandsworth residents but are served by Stockwell or Streatham JCPs, will need to apply for Universal Credit from now on.
Last week we issued a joint briefing with Wandsworth Citizens Advice, to ask Wandsworth Borough Council and the DWP to work together, and with local agencies, to put in place urgent, robust support for residents claiming Universal Credit in the weeks and months ahead.
We agree that Universal Credit has the potential to be transformative. Its twin goals – to simplify a complicated system and ensure that work pays – are sensible. However, Universal Credit currently has significant built-in issues that leave many people in extreme hardship.
As the Work and Pensions Select Committee recently reported: “In areas where the full service has rolled out, evidence compellingly links [the six week wait for first payment] to an increase in acute financial difficulty, with widespread reports of overwhelmed food banks, problem debt and steeply rising rent arrears and homelessness. Most low-income families simply do not have the savings to see them through this extended period without resorting to desperate measures.”
Since the briefing, we’re encouraged that Wandsworth Borough Council is now establishing a Universal Credit working group – with DWP and local agencies like Citizens Advice and Wandsworth Foodbank – with the aim of meeting for the first time before Christmas.
In the meantime, if you or anyone you know is applying for Universal Credit and you need help, please:
- Talk to your work coach at your JobCentrePlus, and ask them to help you – for instance to apply for an advance payment if you need one. These are currently 50% of your monthly claim, and are a loan – you will need to pay this back within six months (this changes to 12 months in January 2018).
- Get free expert advice from Citizens Advice Wandsworth, either face to face or on the phone.
- Ask to be referred to Wandsworth Foodbank if you’re struggling to put food on the table. You can be referred to Wandsworth Foodbank by one of many local agencies who are our Voucher Partners (GPs, schools, Citizens Advice, social services, council teams like the Welfare Reform Team for instance). If you don’t know who to ask, please call us on 020 7326 9428 and we’d love to try to help.