Blackpool Universal Credit Seekers Fylde and Wyre urged to answer calls to avoid losing edge


More than 16,000 people in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre applied for universal credit between March and May 2020, amid increased demand for nationwide financial support as the Covid crisis struck.

At the time, the usual benefit claim verification process – which involves submitting corroborating evidence of identity and personal circumstances – was suspended because applicants were unable to produce the necessary documents. person in an employment center.

It was replaced by a system called Trust and Protect, which allowed applications to continue without the normal confirmation checks. However, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has now set up a team to review all claims made under this fast-track process since last spring.

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People applying for universal credit usually have to show supporting evidence at a job center - but things were different after the outbreak of the pandemic.
People applying for universal credit usually have to show supporting evidence at a job center – but things were different after the outbreak of the pandemic.

If an applicant cannot be contacted within three attempts by officials seeking to verify their claim, their payments could be suspended or changed.

The Lancashire branches of the Citizens Advice charity are now urging recipients of universal credit not to ignore phone calls which could be crucial in ensuring they don’t lose access to the benefit.

“The most important thing people need to do is answer calls from numbers that have been held up,” said Joanna Young, who supports callers in the county.

“I don’t like to do it [myself], but if the DWP tries to call you three times and you don’t answer the phone, it might be. “

Joanna Young of Citizens Advice in Lancashire warns universal credit applicants could face hardship if their payments are suddenly interrupted

Anyone claiming the benefit is also reminded to check their DWP log online, if they have one, for posts – as well as to keep an eye on the publication for any correspondence from the department.

Ms. Young added that unexpected changes in universal credit payments could lead to “domestic catastrophe” in some cases.

“For a lot of people, if they get by with Universal Credit, they’re just getting away with it – so it only takes one little thing to tip people who are about to handle a complete disaster.

“The impact this has on people emotionally is huge,” she warned, adding that the charity had alerted county food banks that they may see increased demand. as a result of the verification process.

Ms Young said some applicants – especially the most vulnerable – might find it difficult to provide the required evidence even if their applications are valid because they lack the necessary digital skills or even equipment such as scanners.

“Job centers, libraries and town halls are not easily accessible at the moment because of the pandemic – that’s why it’s really hard to get basic information out of a piece of paper between someone’s hands.

Meanwhile, in a possible double whammy, anyone who has been overpaid will not only see those payments halted, but will also see money distributed as a result of an ineligible claim recovered by the DWP.

Citizens Advice reassures people that it is available to help and the ministry has learned that repayment options will be discussed with anyone who has received money to which they are not entitled.

“A lot of people will have applied in good faith and then they will have been found ineligible – that’s a complex benefit,” said Jenny Duthie, the charity’s Lancashire project and development manager.

“We don’t have an argument with people who don’t get a benefit they aren’t entitled to, but it could cause real hardship. Some of these people may have returned to work or found work, but if their application is [judged] not have been valid during this period, they will still have this overpayment [to be repaid].

“A lot of the people we deal with are very vulnerable and not able to make a digital complaint, they have to make a complaint over the phone. [DWP] journal to start to be informed.

Anyone needing help verifying their Universal Credit application or whose payments have been interrupted or recovered can contact Citizens Advice in Lancashire for independent assistance. The charity’s advice line is 0800 144 8848 (open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal Credit is designed to be as accessible as possible and has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the coronavirus pandemic.

We are reviewing all complaints to ensure that everyone receives the support to which they are entitled. “

Anyone unable to pay the Universal Credit overpayment repayment rate is encouraged to contact the ministry to discuss their specific situation.

The ministry has also produced guidelines to help ensure applicants are aware of the importance of reporting accurate dates and information.

At the time, the usual benefit claim verification process – which involves submitting corroborating evidence of identity and personal circumstances – was suspended because applicants were unable to produce the necessary documents. person in an employment center.

It was replaced by a system called Trust and Protect, which allowed applications to continue without the normal confirmation checks. However, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has now set up a team to review all claims made under this fast-track process since last spring.

If an applicant cannot be contacted within three attempts by officials seeking to verify their claim, their payments could be suspended or changed.

The Lancashire branches of the Citizens Advice charity are now urging recipients of universal credit not to ignore phone calls which could be crucial in ensuring they don’t lose access to the benefit.

“The most important thing people need to do is answer calls from numbers that have been held up,” said Joanna Young, who supports callers in the county.

“I don’t like to do it [myself], but if the DWP tries to call you three times and you don’t answer the phone, it might be. “

Anyone claiming the benefit is also reminded to check their DWP log online, if they have one, for posts – as well as to keep an eye on the publication for any correspondence from the department.

Ms. Young added that unexpected changes in universal credit payments could lead to “domestic catastrophe” in some cases.

“For a lot of people, if they get by with Universal Credit, they’re just getting away with it – so it only takes one little thing to tip people who are about to handle a complete disaster.

“The impact this has on people emotionally is huge,” she warned, adding that the charity had alerted county food banks that they may see increased demand. as a result of the verification process.

Ms Young said some applicants – especially the most vulnerable – might find it difficult to provide the required evidence even if their applications are valid because they lack the necessary digital skills or even equipment such as scanners.

“Job centers, libraries and town halls are not easily accessible at the moment because of the pandemic – that’s why it’s really hard to get basic information out of a piece of paper between someone’s hands.

Meanwhile, in a possible double whammy, anyone who has been overpaid will not only see those payments halted, but will also see money distributed as a result of an ineligible claim recovered by the DWP.

Citizens Advice reassures people that it is available to help and the ministry has learned that repayment options will be discussed with anyone who has received money to which they are not entitled.

“A lot of people will have applied in good faith and then they will have been found ineligible – that’s a complex benefit,” said Jenny Duthie, the charity’s Lancashire project and development manager.

“We don’t have an argument with people who don’t get a benefit they aren’t entitled to, but it could cause real hardship. Some of these people may have returned to work or found work, but if their application is [judged] not have been valid during this period, they will still have this overpayment [to be repaid].

“A lot of the people we deal with are very vulnerable and not able to make a digital complaint, they have to make a complaint over the phone. [DWP] journal to start to be informed.

Anyone needing help verifying their Universal Credit application or whose payments have been interrupted or recovered can contact Citizens Advice in Lancashire for independent assistance. The charity’s advice line is 0800 144 8848 (open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal Credit is designed to be as accessible as possible and has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the coronavirus pandemic.

We are reviewing all complaints to ensure that everyone receives the support to which they are entitled. “

Anyone unable to pay the Universal Credit overpayment repayment rate is encouraged to contact the ministry to discuss their specific situation.

The ministry has also produced guidelines to help ensure applicants are aware of the importance of reporting accurate dates and information.

FYLDE COAST UNIVERSAL CREDIT CLAIMS (MARCH-MAY 2020)

This is the number of inhabitants of each Job Center area whose universal credit applications made at the start of the pandemic are being verified.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions, via Citizens Advice


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