Applying for Universal Credit?
Problems applying for Universal Credit? You're not alone.
by Anna Holman, CAS project manager.
This article was first published in the Herald on 11 February 2023.
I grew up in the age of computers and the internet, and Wi-Fi and working from home is the norm for me. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a strong childhood memory of disconnecting the phone to start up my internet connection and the screechy dial-up tone ringing through the house (very young readers, ask your parents).
As we all know however, technology never runs smoothly, and when I moved flats earlier this year, I predictably had Wi-Fi setup issues, leaving me without internet for weeks. On one desperate evening while trying to attend a work zoom meeting (I promise it wasn’t Netflix), I had to ask a neighbour to use their connection, but they did not have Wi-fi, so I was flummoxed. That’s how easy it is to be digitally excluded.
But I’m lucky. I am someone who lives in an area where broadband works well, and I have the skills and finances to be able to get online. My recent exclusion was a blip, not a permanent feature.
For many people though, lack of digital access is just a part of their life. This may be because they do not feel confident with technology, can’t secure good internet connection, or can’t afford digital devices or broadband.
This becomes even more of a challenge when people need to access benefits - the UK government now operates a digital by default policy, which means that the main welfare benefit, Universal Credit (UC), is online based.
As you know from our regular column, CAS understands the cost-of-living crisis is squeezing household budgets to breaking point. People are faced with a perfect storm of soaring prices and flat or falling incomes, and this is sweeping tens of thousands of people across Scotland into poverty, debt, and destitution. This has made affording technology and internet access even more difficult for some.
This is where our Help to Claim (HTC) service can help you. HTC is a freephone and webchat service that supports clients to apply for UC.
You can be eligible for UC if you are in work or unemployed, so if you are struggling to meet those rising bills, our advisers use benefit calculators to work out if you can get some additional support and find the best financial option for you.
We’re available for quick questions and advice on UC, as well as more in-depth support if you need it. Our friendly and experienced advisers can take you through the full application process step-by-step or talk you through other ways you can apply. We also have a free translation service if you do not speak English. Even better, HTC is connected to the rest of the Citizens Advice network, so we can direct you to further support if needed.
So, if you are considering UC, want to know if you can increase your monthly income, or if like me and my neighbour you don’t have access to the internet, you can give HTC a call for free.
The cost of living crisis has been tough on working families and those not in paid employment. Don’t feel alone, reach out and we will be here to help.
You can access HTC by calling our freephone number 0800 023 2581 or using our webchat service www.cas.org.uk/helptoclaim.