Atherstone’s advice bureau sees 700 per cent spike in Universal Credit issues over nine-month period

  Posted: 09.03.20 at 17:42 by Nick Hudson

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Cost-of-living concerns saw a sevenfold increase in seeking help around requests for Universal Credit from an Atherstone-based national support agency last year.

But more than two-thirds of the people still wanted assistance “in person” from North Warwickshire Citizens Advice when they visited its Welcome Street offices between April and December.

Staff at the NWCA’s Parish Rooms dealt with 2,110 enquiries in the nine-month period – with almost 8,000 separate issues addressed at an average of 3.7 per case.

The increasing workload at the NWCA resulted in 264 benefit claim increases, reinstatements or new awards with an annual value of more than £804,000.

The key increases for the part-year were a 714 per cent rise in the Government’s six-in-one benefits payment, a 17 per cent increase in debt issues and relationship and family matters up a fifth, a report to North Warwickshire Borough Council’s Community and Environment Board reveals.

In fact, Universal Credit claims submitted topped £191,000.

In addition , there were 2,347 hits made online to access valuable Money Matters fact sheets.

Separation continued to be the most downloaded single item.

They included 485 related to losing your job (268 on redundancy and 217 on disciplinary action and dismissal), 363 on separation, , 258 on serious illness and disability, 248 on significant changes in income, 213 on getting married or moving in with a partner, 139 on starting a new job, 123 on having a children, leaving school or college, 109 on moving house, 107 on preparing for retirement, 105 on bereavement, 100 on having a baby, and 97 on losing your home.

NWCA, which employs eight full and part-time staff and 22 volunteers, can expect the borough council to set its 2020/21 annual grant scheme funding at the same level as the last financial year – £34,807.50 – according to the Community and Environment Board report, being discussed tonight.

The local authority provides monetary assistance by offering NWCA the maximum level of discretionary rate relief, which this year is likely to be £1,075.

Office hours are Monday to Thursday from 9am to 4.30pm, and 9am to 4pm on a Friday.

Its drop-in service is provided from 10am to 1pm on Mondays, Tuesday and Fridays; from 3pm to 6pm on Wednesdays; and by appointment only on Thursdays.

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