Diss and Thetford pilot project supporting Universal Credit claimants
- Credit: Simon Parkin
A project aimed at supporting Universal Credit claimants is being piloted by Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford & District.
The South Norfolk and Breckland advice service is one of 14 local offices in the country, and the only one in East Anglia, to be awarded funding for to pilot the project that will run between January and April next year and will offer help and support to new and existing claimants.
Universal Credit is a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment. It is an online benefit system, this means claimants need an email address to register and regular online access in order keep their work journal up to date.
Failure to do this can result in sanctions, or cuts, in the benefit so it is vital that claimants are digitally enabled and have access.
The pilot project funding will help provide new, much needed, computer equipment which will enable fully trained advisers to help support claimants in making their claim for Universal Credit online. The service will be offered face-to-face, via webchat and email and over the telephone.
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Dr Melanie Jones, chief executive of Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford & District, said: 'We are delighted to be the only local office in the county awarded this funding as support is desperately needed, particularly for those without computer skills or access, living in rural communities.'
Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford & District will also be offering tailored budgeting support to claimants as part of the pilot. Claimants have to wait up to five weeks before receiving their first payment.
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Diss and Thetford moved to full service in May and September respectively and some claimants have found themselves worse off financially as a result.
Dr Jones said: 'We've already helped over 140 Universal Credit claimants locally get the money they are entitled to since we moved to full service at the beginning of this year. Claimants have to wait five weeks before receiving their first payment and the sad fact is that this can put people into debt as they struggle to pay rent and bills.
'The funding for the pilot will enable us to reach even more clients and provide tailored support to help them, from making an initial claim right through to challenging unfair decisions.'
The full programme of support will be rolled out nationally by Citizens Advice in April 2019 with funding from the Department of Work and Pensions.