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But you can’t provide a great service without great people, and the success we achieve for customers is the result of a caring, knowledgeable and dedicated team. Dan Harper is a Universal Credit coordinator at Thirteen, providing support direct to customers.
Tell us a bit about you
I’ve worked for Thirteen for 14 months now. I came here from a local authority, with a benefits background and experience in both Universal Credit and legacy benefits. I’d previously worked in the processing of housing benefits, but felt it was time to move into a support role to further my skills. This was mainly because I had seen first-hand how Universal Credit was starting to affect both the system and claimants as I worked in Hartlepool, one of the UC pilot roll-out areas.
What have you been up to today?
So, today is Thursday and I’ve just finished another busy day as part of the UC support team.
My first appointment was to complete a new UC claim for a recently widowed lady who needed help and support to get back on her feet. I provided digital help to make the initial claim, creating an email address and arranging an ID appointment for her at the Jobcentre. I explained how Universal Credit works and how it differs from the previous benefits she received and provided a manual calculation of what she should be entitled to. I also looked at income and expenditure to help put her in the best financial position moving forward and discussed the rent payments needed.
Next on the list were two customers due to receive their first payment of UC. I contacted the first customer and we went through their award for UC. This was correct, so I took a payment for the month’s rent and set up a payment plan towards the arrears on the account. The second customer didn’t answer, so I left a voicemail and text message requesting they call me back.
My 11 o’clock was a customer who claimed Universal Credit as she was struggling to manage on her student finance alone. I carried out a manual calculation for her, advising of the additional support she will receive from UC, how the assessment works for students and which months they will include her student finance and which they won’t. We checked with the local council to see if she had the correct council tax exemptions. She didn’t, so we provided the relevant information and got the exemption backdated! She was really pleased, and the backdate will produce a nice credit which she plans to pay off her rent account.
I spent some time checking in with customers who are new to UC to offer support and helped some of the neighbourhood coordinators with queries they had surrounding the rent accounts of existing UC claimants.
Around 1.30pm I received a call back from the second customer who was due to be paid UC today. The customer was in a panic as her payment was lower than we had calculated and after working through her payment breakdown, I could see the award was incorrect. An element had been missed from the assessment leaving her £336 worse off. I asked the customer to update her journal, to give me permission to speak on her behalf regarding the missing element.
I contacted Universal Credit and discussed the error with the customer’s case manager. After 20 minutes on hold and speaking to three members of UC staff, they agreed to correct the error and to pay out the missing element by the end of the day – brilliant result! I called the customer back to update her, who was understandable very relieved, took a payment for rent and set up a direct debit for future payments.
What would you change if you could?
Opportunities for customers claiming UC surrounding digital support could be made better. At the moment, wait times with outside agencies (CAB etc) for help to make a new UC claim can be lengthy and claimants are missing out on UC they are entitled to because of this. The support available direct at Jobcentres is also limited. This leaves claimants unsure of where to go for support and what help is on offer.
What do you love about your job?
The best bits of my role at Thirteen are making sure people get that support and have the right information so that their claim for Universal Credit is a success from the start, working alongside the neighbourhood teams to ensure the customer experience at Thirteen is a really good one, and achieving positive outcomes with UC for both customers and the business.