Universal Credit

Welcome to a new page around Universal Credit on the Big Book of Benefits website.

Just as most people living with mental health issues have now been contacted about a  switch from DLA to PIP, comes news of trouble with the  roll-out of yet another big change and challenge – the switch from most “working age” benefits to Universal Credit (UC)

So far , the all singing, all stumbling  Full Service UC only covers 10% of the country. And mot people in the areas that have “transitioned” to Full Service UC are still on legacy benefits., and will be for some time.

Absolutely nothing happens to your benefits on the day “full service” Universal Credit comes to your area. The earth will not move for you 🙂

The current numbers of people on UC through the “sickness route” to benefits then is small, but in time UC intends to draw most of the “working age” benefits into its tough love embrace.

The chaos surrounding too many UC claims in the Full Service areas at the moment is a huge cause of stress and anxiety. This is  not just to those going through it, but for others facing the thought that it could be like that for them. That worry and fear can be almost worse than the reality.

In many ways, UC shouldn’t be as difficult as previous switches you may have had to go through, such as from Incapacity Benefit to ESA or from  DLA to PIP. That’s mainly because there is no need for another health assessment; you won’t need to  justify and explain the very personal mental health issues to another batch of Health Professionals (who may or may not get it).

The rules are quite clear – any ESA assessment carries over into UC which uses exactly the same Work Capability Assessment with exactly the same two groups of the unwell.  And any re-assesment is at the time recomended in your last assessment., not just becauuse you switch over to UC. But yes, UC can muck anything up :-), so we will cover this in a future post.

UC is more than just a merger of six “working age benefits for new claims and their eventual replacement for people already on one of those “legacy benefits. UC  includes a whole new way of approaching benefits administration and any support to people who need to make those claims.

The problem is that “blue sky” thinking and UC dogma is finding itself totally unsuited for the present realities of people’s lived experience. So many of the current problems could have been avoide., if there had been any will to do so and fingers had come out of ears.

The point here, though,  is not just to have a rant at UC – justified or not . It is a shame, as UC had some genuine good intentions and some real possibilities to be better than before. It always came with a rather strange political approach clouding its vision and has suffered from cynical misuse as a vehicle for cuts and incompetence.

Rather, we accept the reality that the Government are hell bent on sticking to their timetable, while joining the chorus staying “Stop! and think what you are doing!”. So if UC is happening people may need reliable practical tools, answers to FAQs and “UC survival” tips, to help ease their way through.. How should UC work? And wha tcan I do should they mess up?

UC needn’t be as bad as you may fear, and many do find that the switch can work out OK and they can get used to a very different way of doing benefits. Some may even be better off on UC, though far less than Parliament was originally told.  We hope though that a clearer idea of what it’s all about can help, both in the worries of an unknown ahead or if you are in the thick of a UC claim yoursel, for you or people you support.

Now you will find all of this covered in the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health., updated each year as more experience issues and changes come up.

And if you have read the book, see it live 🙂 We can offer  a range of training courses whether UC is totally new to you  or whether you have got the theory, but are a bit perplexed at the eccentric practicalities of UC. We can tailor these to your group whether you are affected by mental health issues or not.

But not everyone can afford a book nor wants a training course. And we can’t answer everyone’s individual questions .

So the idea of this new page is to develop some useful information that might well answer those Frequently Asked Questions and be of some real practical help to you. And to offer it absolutely free,: no charge, zilch, de nada 🙂 .

I will be drawing on some of the questions that people are asking  in places such as  the Universal Credit Survival closed group on Facebook. That’s a great place to go and ask a question and share feelings and issues with others going through UC transitions . Do not let UC make you feel alone and isolated.

I will also be working with a group of people living with mental distress who approached me to do some work with their UC campaign . But by working together  – sharing and adapting materials – then we can get more done for less cost.

So here ends this Introduction to this new page. Many more posts will follow, which I hope will help calm fears and make UC feel a bit more manageable.

We live in hope that fingers will finally come out of ears in the Government and UC can be become  a lot more settled and fixed by the time you come to it. And if it can’t be fixed, yes it does need scrapping.

But we just feel a need to do do what we can here – as perhaps we all can in supporting and helping each other  – just to minimise any potential harm UC causes. If you get stuck, do reach out and seek advice and support. UC problems are usually not your fault and you desrve your entitlement. We hop to make some contribution then to minimising the toll that UC may take on people’s finances, mental well being and lives.

It’s not much but we hope in time this will become a useful something.

With warmest wishes for the bestest of luck. 🙂

Tom

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