Citizens Advice Haringey offers its expertise to help you deal with Universal Credit applications and unexpected redundancy
“I am about to apply for Universal Credit for the first time, but have been told that there is a six week wait before the first payment. I’m worried that I won’t be able to pay my bills. Is this right, and is there anything I can do?”
After applying for Universal Credit, there’s usually a five or six week wait before your first payment, which is explained during the application process.
Although you can’t be paid faster, there are things you can do to help tide you over.
As part of the claim process, you’ll usually attend an interview at the Jobcentre Plus. At the interview ask if you can apply for an “advance payment” – this is a loan that will be deducted from your future benefits.
You will need to show how much money you need for essential bills like food and housing, and explain why the loan will protect you from serious financial difficulty, like being unable to pay your rent.
Alternatively, you can apply for an advance payment through the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723.
It’s best to apply as early as possible in your claim, as you may be turned down otherwise.
If you are refused an advance payment, you can ask the Jobcentre Plus for a reconsideration. Emergency assistance may be available if you are still turned down – Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice can inform of you of your next steps.
“I was made redundant last month and I’ve already started to fall behind on my bills. I’m looking for work, but is there anything else I can do so I don’t end up in debt?”
There are steps you can take to avoid your bills from building up.
First, check that you have been paid any redundancy money you’re entitled to – you might get statutory redundancy pay and possibly contractual redundancy pay if you’ve been in the job two years or more. This should be evident on your fi- nal payslip, but if it’s not contact your employer.
Then look at ways to boost your income. See if you are eligible for benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance with the Citizens Advice benefits calculator. Visit: citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/benefits-introduction/what-benefits-can-i-get/
You could also check if you can make savings on your bills, for example by switching to a cheaper gas or electricity deal.
Now look at how much money you have coming in and compare it to your essential spending. Priority bills include your rent or mortgage and council tax, and should be paid first as there can be serious consequences for missing payments.
If you own your home, contact your mortgage lender to see if you can negotiate on your monthly repayment. You could also see if your credit card provider will negotiate on repayment amounts to give you some breathing space.
For further help understanding how to manage your money, contact Haringey Citizens Advice. Visit citizensadvice.org.uk/local/haringey/ or call 0300 330 1187