It has been a really impressive few months for Citizens Advice for their campaign to fix the problems people are having with Universal Credit.
Here in West Suffolk, Citizens Advice are working more closely with the Jobcentre than ever before, and have two advisers working in each of the Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill jobcentres for two days a week each. They are talking to claimants about money, how they might manage on a lower income, any simple changes they could make to reduce their household expenditure until they start work, or addressing any outstanding debts at the beginning of their claim – as well as any problems with making or maintaining their claim.
Nationally local advice centres’ clients’ evidence was cited in national and local news coverage, and in Parliament by MPs across the political spectrum, showing what Citizens Advice are able to achieve as a campaigning organisation.
The government announced a package of measures to improve the implementation of the benefit, addressing many of the issues on which we campaigned, including free phone lines, reducing the waiting time for first payments, and in particular announcing an additional payment to Housing Benefit clients to prevent them falling into rent arrears which was a critical issue highlighted by evidence around the country.