A local expert from Citizen’s Advice answers a question from the public. This Month: How to cope with the upcoming £20 cut in Universal Credit.
Q: “I keep reading that Universal Credit is going to be cut. I struggle to get by as it is and I’m really worried that if I lose £20 a week, I’ll get into serious debt. I’m already behind on some of my bills. What can I do to avoid things getting worse?”
A: Firstly, depending on your situation, you might be able to ask to have your Universal Credit paid differently – these are called ‘alternative payment arrangements’. This might be an option if you’re in debt or rent arrears, among other things. To apply for an alternative payment arrangement, call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644
Behind on the bills
If you’re behind on some of your bills, the first step is to make a list of how much you owe and add up how much you need to pay each month.
You now need to prioritise your debts. We have advice on our website to help you do this. Some bills can cause you more problems than others: Rent or mortgage arrears, council tax and energy bills are your priority debts – there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Get in touch with the organisations you owe money to (these are known as your creditors). They might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or taking a break from
payments. Many organisations have put in place protections for people who’ve struggled to pay their bills during the pandemic. The government-backed Breathing Space scheme could also give you extra time. If you’re eligible, you could get 60 days where your creditors can’t contact you, take action to make you pay, or add interest and charges to your debt. You’ll need to get advice from a debt adviser first – they’ll check all your debts to see if they’re covered by the scheme.
Ask for help.
Everyone’s circumstance is different, particularly when it comes to managing personal finances. If you need more specific support or don’t feel able to manage your situation alone, contact your local Citizens Advice or call our debt helpline: 0800 240 4420. Other organisations providing free debt advice include Stepchange and National Debtline.”