Universal Credit - An Interview With A Resident

Universal Credit - What's It Really Like?Logo: RentFirst. keep Your Home

We interview one of our residents about their Universal Credit experience

How long have you been receiving Universal Credit (UC), and how did you find the process of applying?

  • Roughly 2 years now. When I first applied it was on the old system of phoning and completing paperwork. More recently I used the online service using my mobile phone which I found easy. They didn't ask any questions I didn't expect. 

 Overall what’s your experience been like when dealing with the Work Coaches at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)?

  • Unfortunately my experience has not been good. When I first applied for UC I was given the wrong advice by them. They didn't seem to know anything. This led to me having a benefit overpayment of around £1000. Even now it’s all online I feel the service is not quick enough. It took them 5 days to reply to a message I sent them. When you are really worrying about something you want a quick response. I would prefer that I could still phone someone to discuss things.

What’s the difference between receiving UC and Housing Benefit (HB)?

  • For me it's still about the advice you get, HB knew what they were doing. HB payments were easier too, as they were paid regularly to Estuary. My online journal (which is how I liaise with the DWP) shows me when payments are made to Estuary. However, I have found out today from doing this interview that Estuary actually do not receive them on the date it states.

Have you found it difficult receiving UC?

  • Yes. Due to the delays I got behind with my rent and other payments. I also had the overpayment to deal with. In all the years I have been a social housing tenant I’ve never been in trouble with my rent. I nearly lost my home because of the problems I had.

Are there any positives with UC?

  • The courses they have available are good. I attended a work course and they showed me how to prepare my CV.  I now have an up to date CV I can use.  They do maths and English as well. 

What did Estuary do for you? Was our advice useful?

  • You did a hell of a lot. You put me in touch with Family Mosaic (a support service) and your Welfare Benefits Advisor contacted the DWP and pointed out their errors. This reduced the amount I needed to pay back to them each month. At the time when my Income Officer was phoning I didn't feel it was in a supportive way. I now realise I was wrong and that Estuary were just trying to help me sustain my tenancy. 

What advice would you give other residents about UC?

  • The problem is people ignore it as they feel its not going to affect them. I did when letters or leaflets came through the door. I was really scared. So my advice is to contact Estuary straight away to make you aware and ask for help, as you really do get help. Ask for as much information as you can about UC so you understand the process. If possible try and save some money before this happens to get you through the weeks when you won’t have any money. I also got some food vouchers which helped me at the time.

Is there anything more Estuary could have done to help you or suggestions you have to improve our service?

  • I don’t think Estuary could have done anything more to help me. You went above and beyond, so I kept my home.  
  • Maybe you could do some events, especially where it involves the kids as lots of people come out for those. This would be a good way to promote your service.