Universal Credit - Introducing the team

Universal Credit (UC) has been with us at Thirteen for a few years now. Hartlepool was the first of our local authority areas to move completely onto the new benefit in 2016, and we’ve since helped thousands of customers through the process of claiming UC for the first time.

Thirteen Universal Credit Coordinator 3

27/09/2019

In the beginning, Universal Credit was a worry – a new system, new processes, new calculations… how would it work? Thirteen, along with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), councils and housing providers across the North East went straight into learning mode, forming working groups to share information and experiences so that we could work together to give our customers the best support we could.

Some of our colleagues worked specifically with customers moving onto UC, allowing us to really develop our expertise. There were lots of hurdles; claiming was complicated, many people found the online application tough, queues on the helpline were lengthy, it was taking longer than expected for customers to get their payments and, since everyone’s personal situations are different, each claim brought up an issue we hadn’t seen before. Customers were worried about how they would manage with the wait for the first payment.

What we learned from the roll-out in Hartlepool told us that having the right support was the biggest factor in making UC work for people. So, in advance of Stockton and Middlesbrough moving to the full digital UC service in 2018, we recruited a full team of 16 dedicated staff to work with customers from the time they make their claim to the time their payment comes in.

With backgrounds in benefits, rents and money advice and expertise in Universal Credit, the team helped nearly 3,000 customers in their first year. Support is tailored to the individual because we know once size doesn’t fit all. We help customers get their claim right so that they are getting everything they’re entitled to, and the team is co-located in every Jobcentre Plus in the Tees Valley, working directly with DWP to make sure claims are processed correctly. We look at options to help customers get by during the wait for their first payment, and work with lots of other agencies and charities to make sure people can eat, heat their homes and support them to manage on an often really limited budget. 

Help doesn’t just stop once the first payment is made, either. Thirteen invests heavily in all kinds of support, so that we can offer a comprehensive, wrap-around service. Once the UC team has done their part, customers can still get help from our money advice officers, more intensive, floating support is available if they need it, and all our customers have access to employment support from the in-house team.

Because of the support provided, last year:

·        We put nearly £700,000 straight into customers’ pockets by making sure they claimed the right things

·        Average customer debt by the first UC payment reduced from £200 to just £38

·        Over £460,000 of rent arrears were prevented

·        Only 23% of customers needed to pay through an Alternative Payment Arrangement

·        Evictions due to rent arrears have been reduced by 33% to an all-time low

We’re very proud of the results, and the impact that really good support has made.

In the next blogs, we’ll hear from staff, partner agencies and from customers themselves about the difference it made to them.

Other blogs

A day in the life of a Universal Credit co-ordinator

Universal Credit - partnerships