helping people navigate Universal Credit and the benefit system

Since March 2020, when the first lockdown hit, over 3 million people who’ve lost their income have applied for Universal Credit.

That means numbers in the system have doubled in 6 months. There are now 6 million people are claiming Universal Credit, the government’s main benefit for those of working age.

Many more will need to apply in the months ahead.

Recent StepChange research has found that, of those who have made an application for universal credit since March, 24% are in severe problem debt and 28% are showing signs of financial difficulty.

In this session, we look at how to navigate the benefit system, help people find out what they are eligible for, and cover the basics of the “Universal Credit”.

We also look at practical ways the church how churches can help those applying.

And we hear from a church who has journeyed with a range of people who have struggled with the application and the process of navigating Universal Credit for some practical ideas tips and advice. Top tips:

  • it’s not difficult, don’t be scared to just give it a go
  • we’re there to accompany and support not to be the expert!
  • find out what other local people and services you can refer onto


Alison Tsang, Just Finance Lead, and Head of Capital Mass You can reach Alison here

Fi Budden, Ordinard at St Mary’s Osterley, and previously Community Chaplain on the Ivybridge estate, Hounslow

Resources and links mentioned in this session:

Crosslight Debt and Money Advice

Crosslight operate free money and debt advice centres across West London. Eddie, who speaks in the session, runs one of the advice centres in Twickenham & Hounslow.

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Covid Cash Recovery Course

A course designed by the Just Finance Foundation, including some information on Universal Credit. It is a free online course which up-skills churches, community leaders to help their communities cope with money issues that have developed as we continue through the pandemic.

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Citizens Advice “Help to Claim”

Citizens Advice provide a free service: advisers can help with the early stages of Universal Credit claims. You can talk to them on the phone, online over chat or face-to-face.

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Local Housing Allowance

You can find out more about what your Local Housing Allowance is here.

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Discretionary Housing Payments

If someone is struggling they may be eligible for a one off Discretionary Housing Payment from their council. More information from Shelter is here.

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Council Tax Reduction

If you are eligible for Universal Credit, you should also apply for Council Tax Reduction, which you need to do seperately, as it’s administrated by your local council NOT the DWP. Details are here.

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