AN EVENT about Universal Credit will be staged to give Solihull residents a chance to talk about their switch to the controversial new benefits system.
The Citizens Advice Bureau Solihull (CASB) says it has been allocated some funding to hold a meeting for people to ask questions or voice discontent about claiming and maintaining a Universal Credit claim.
The event will take place on January 31 and is being held at the Junction, Chapel House Road, Chelmsley Wood, between 1pm and 3pm.
The CASB say they are hoping to collate the information provided by residents and publicise positive outcomes in order to help local people who make claims in the future.
The event will provide food and refreshments and wants people to come forward to increase awareness of the process and its difficulties.
The Observer reported at the end of November about the challenging circumstances those who make the switch to Universal Credit can find themselves.
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages across the UK. In Solihull it was rolled-out in April.
It is the new form of benefit payment encompassing previous claimants of housing benefit, child tax credit, income support, working tax credit, job seeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance.
The welfare reform has been revered by some as an incentive for work, but reviled by others who say it is unfair and poorly managed.
The CASB say they have seen a total of 221 clients about Universal Credit in the quarter October 1 to Dec 31 last year.
Official statistics show that a significant proportion of Universal Credit claimants eligible to pay council tax or rent for a council property have fallen into debt.
Nearly a third (32 per cent) council tax payers in receipt of Universal Credit in the borough are in arrears, adding to the strain of making payments on time.
To make matters worse, unpaid council tax is a priority debt because the council has strong powers to force payment.
The figures also show that, for Universal Credit recipients who rent a council property, a huge 74 per cent are in rent arrears and the figure rises to 86 per cent of claimants who have come on to Universal Credit since August 1.
Kerry Turner, chief executive of the CASB, said: “One of the aims of Citizens Advice Solihull Borough is to be the voice of local people and Universal Credit is a high priority for us.
“We would like to hear from local people about their experiences with claiming, transferring to and maintaining UC claims.
“We would like to know what has worked, is working and perhaps where there is some need for improvement.
“With the evidence collected we hope to influence policy makers locally to put measures in place for helping future claimants.”