Citizens Advice extends lifeline as Universal Credit sweeps into Oxfordshire

By Sarah Edwards

As Oxfordshire South and Vale becomes the latest full service area for the introduction of Universal Credit, the national charity Citizens Advice has jumped into the breach by offering the help of specially-trained advisers.

South Oxfordshire became a full service area for Universal Credit on 11 October. This means that anyone applying for one of the six means-tested benefits (or already on one of them but reporting a change in circumstances) will have to apply for Universal Credit. Citizens Advice is aware that some applicants might struggle with the new system but the charity’s specially-trained advisers are available to help any clients who need it.

Citizens Advice is working closely with the district councils’ housing needs teams and local housing associations to support those who struggle with Universal Credit.

Universal Credit merges six existing benefits into one: Child Tax Credit; Working Tax Credit; Housing Benefit; Income Support; income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Citizens Advice has already issued a strong warning over plans to accelerate the introduction of Universal Credit, saying that introducing it in haste could have devastating consequences and will push some people into debt. Up to 20 per cent of applicants for Universal Credit are expected to experience serious problems. Citizens Advice says the problems centre around application process delays rather than the new policy as a whole.

Universal Credit has already been bogged down in many issues including the long wait for first payment, the lack of support in place to help claimants adapt and the resulting strain on public services.

Citizens Advice offers confidential, impartial advice and information on many day-to-day issues. If you need help with Universal Credit, take immediate action and visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or telephone 03 444 111 444 or drop in to your nearest Citizens Advice office. For locations and opening hours see www.citizensadvice.org.uk/local/oxfordshire-south-vale