Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes, Andrew Mitchell, has welcomed the changes to Universal Credit outlined in the recent budget announcement by Chancellor Phillip Hammond.
The £1.5bn package of measures around Universal Credit will mean that from January 2018 households that qualify for Universal Credit will be able to access one month’s worth of support within five days, via an interest free advance that can be repaid over 12 months.
Changes are also being made which will make it easier for claimants in the private rented sector to continue having their housing costs paid directly to landlords once they are on Universal Credit.
From February 2018 claimants will also be eligible for Universal Credit from the day they apply, rather than after seven days. In addition, from April 2018, Housing Benefit will continue to be paid for two weeks after a Universal Credit claim is made.
Andrew Mitchell, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Homes, said: “These changes will provide crucial extra support for anyone claiming Universal Credit. With the full service rollout of Universal Credit in Cornwall due to start in December, it’s vital that the changes are implemented quickly.
“Universal Credit is paid out in arrears in a single monthly household payment direct to a bank, building society or credit union account. People have to apply online, and it currently takes around six weeks to receive their first payment from the DWP. This is a big change for those who aren’t used to living on a monthly budget, don’t have computer skills, are in financial difficulties or behind on their rent, or who can’t afford to wait for their first payment.
“Cornwall Council has been working closely with local Jobcentres to ensure that there is help and support available for those who may have difficulties when they start claiming Universal Credit. This includes advice and guidance on managing money and living within a monthly budget, help to make and maintain Universal Credit claims online, and help with applications for Council Tax Support and discretionary housing payments.”
In Cornwall the full service rollout of Universal Credit will be staggered from December 2017 and June 2018.
Claimants who need help with Universal Credit should contact their work coach at the Jobcentre in the first instance. Help available from Cornwall Council includes:
Money management – Cornwall Council is working with Jobcentres in Cornwall to provide advice and guidance on managing money and living within a monthly budget. This free service is open to anyone claiming Universal Credit. Claimants can talk to a work coach at their local Jobcentre, or ring Cornwall Council on 0300 1234 121, option 5, and ask to talk to someone about personal budget support.
Council Tax Support – Universal Credit doesn’t include help to pay council tax. Claimants must make a separate claim for Council Tax Support direct to Cornwall Council.
Discretionary housing payments – Discretionary housing payments are for claimants who are receiving Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit and need more help with their housing costs. Discretionary housing payments can pay some, or all, of the shortfall between the amount of rent and the level of benefit a claimant is already receiving.
Getting online – Cornwall Council is working with Jobcentres in Cornwall to provide support for people who need extra help to make and maintain their claim online. Claimants can talk to a work coach at their local Jobcentre or ring Cornwall Council on 0300 1234 121, option 5, and ask to talk to someone about IT support for their Universal Credit claim.
Winter Wellbeing programme – Cornwall Council is one of more than 30 partners working together across Cornwall to provide help, support and advice for people struggling to heat their homes over the winter. Help is available to switch tariffs, find out about grants for heating improvements, and access emergency funds for people who need help to heat their homes. There is also help for vulnerable people to use their heating systems. Anyone can get in touch by calling free on 0800 9541956.