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Supporting the most vulnerable in switch over to Universal Credit

UC logoSupporting the borough’s most vulnerable clients, many of whom have mental health issues, is one of they key objectives of the mental health advisory team at Citizens Advice Westminster.  So it’s no surprise that they are gearing up to make sure that these people are not disadvantaged by the process of switching over to Universal Credit (UC) in June.

“This new benefits process is only accessible online so we are concerned about the practicalities, not just of having internet access, but whether our clients will have the skills to be able to create accounts and passwords and to manage any ongoing online interaction with the DWP,” commented our mental health adviser.

Digital exclusion in the borough, particularly now with the imminent launch of UC, is a key concern for Citizens Advice Westminster’s social policy team who have researched where clients can go for practical support and training.  You can find out what is available in your area by looking at our UC Services in Westminster booklet.

Many of Westminster’s clients with mental health issues already experience difficulties in dealing with the benefits service and this is likely to become more problematic with the roll-out of UC. AS the  mental health adviser explains: “One client recently wrote to me explaining the reasons why she has given up her home, stopped her Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claim and moved away, because she had become so distressed with the whole experience of claiming ESA and the need to engage with the jobcentre and recruitment agency as part of the process. The added complexity of moving to an on-line process and to have to go to a job centre interview will only make matters worse, I fear.”

“We are preparing for an increase in enquiries when UC rolls out,” said Shirley Springer, CEO, Citizens Advice Westminster.

“We have been working with the DWP in the lead-up to the launch and training our advisers so they are fully briefed and ready to help clients. For example there will be the potential need for alternative payment arrangements for those who are homeless, or have a disability, drug or alcohol problems, mental health issues, or have learning difficulties, and for families with multiple or complex needs. We will be monitoring the impact on our clients and liaising with the DWP as the new process rolls out. Anyone seeking advice on UC can call our helpline on 0300 330 191 or visit our website.


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