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Citizens Advice to provide Universal Support from April 2019

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shawn mach
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Redacted docs published following an FOI request that sought copies of -

... the contract, agreement or service level agreement you have [with] Citizens Advice to provide Universal Support from April 2019.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/universal_support_ps39_million_f?unfold=1#incoming-1262090

Mike Hughes
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https://docs.google.com/document/d/1akOIxIdqU9j1YwWfKbMmIOs-rRNOSHpmwx-gq589PPs/edit

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GVvebXgFgjo-pnG8CLHY80kaM6Y3LXVVWO9G9q1Na7M/edit?ts=5bdb42b7

These links may not work but these are internal secondments for 6 months and 5 months. UC Specialist and UC Account Managers for Citizens Advice.

Presumably an attempt to avoid the inevitable flak which will come if advertised externally.

Peter Turville
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Apparently one of our local CA’s will be one of the 10 bureau in E&W that will trial provision in advance of April national start. We await with interest.

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New Commons Library briefing:

This House of Commons Library briefing paper provides background information on Universal Support and outlines recent developments and issues relating to its delivery in connection with the roll-out of Universal Credit.

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8447

Peter Turville
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Peter Turville - 15 November 2018 09:25 AM

Apparently one of our local CA’s will be one of the 10 bureau in E&W that will trial provision in advance of April national start. We await with interest.

Some details of the trial provision:

“Universal Support for Universal Credit

It will inform the national roll out through all local CA offices from April 2019.

End to end support for initial UC claims including ensuring 1st payment is correct with support until the first payment is correct. The support offer is face to face, telephone and web chat. Budgeting support is not funded under the contract. Funding level is the same as provided to local authority. Home visits will continue to be delivered by JCP home visits team.

The service elements are:
Triage
Digital access and assistance
Part 1: Support to submit claim
Part 2: Support to 1st payment
Evidence check support
Quick question support
Digital content (presumably CA national website content)

Some elements will be available by all three delivery methods, others face to face only.”

It remains unclear whether the face to face service (particularly claim support) will be by appointment only or drop-in as well (given the difficulty with backdating). Responsibility division between JCP and CA is not clear e.g. - self- referral / appointment making etc. by claimants, JCP & 3rd party organisations; procedures for notifying JCP of vulnerable clients, those requiring HVs etc. The service does not appear to include assistance to attend new claim / claimant commitment interviews etc. It will not include ongoing claim maintenance support.

This is a trial project and delivery may differ between bureau taking part in the pilot. 

Interestingly DWP say that they have ‘relaxed’ their approach to telephone claims and will provide telephone (rather than digital) ongoing claim maintenance as an option. It appears this has to be clearly established with DWP and is a one or the other approach to managing a claim (not mix & match - a telephone maintained claim will not have access to the on-line account?). We have requested DWP provide detailed guidance on how to request telephone maintenance, how it works in practice etc.

Andrew Dutton
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https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8447

This briefing has vanished - does anyone know where to???

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Been sent a couple of documents with bit more information about what Citizens Advice are doing under Universal Support. Can only attach one due to size restrictions but they both say more or less the same thing.

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Andrew Dutton
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Whither Personal Budgeting Support?

Gareth Morgan
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Andrew Dutton - 20 December 2018 03:46 PM

Whither Personal Budgeting Support?

Withered.

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Benny Fitzpatrick - 02 October 2018 09:14 AM

Absolute agreement with Neil and Mike. Citizens Advice cannot now be considered impartial as there is Govt money involved. They have kissed the Devil’s backside, and I suspect will come to regret it.

This is National CAB right? From working in many citizens advice’s we take money from local councils alot- could hardly be said we are not impartial against the council. The amount of times I have had arguments with the council who funded my CAB.

Mike Hughes
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ub40worker - 14 January 2019 04:47 PM
Benny Fitzpatrick - 02 October 2018 09:14 AM

Absolute agreement with Neil and Mike. Citizens Advice cannot now be considered impartial as there is Govt money involved. They have kissed the Devil’s backside, and I suspect will come to regret it.

This is National CAB right? From working in many citizens advice’s we take money from local councils alot- could hardly be said we are not impartial against the council. The amount of times I have had arguments with the council who funded my CAB.

Nice to have someone from CA in on the discussion. I think there are 3 issues around this:

1) CA have patchier provision than LAs (not their fault obviously) so it’s hard to see how they’re going to do better with the same amount of money. The amount of money itself is huge in comparison to the existing CA budget so it’s disingenuous in my view to argue it will not skew the ethos and how work is done.

2) The approach within CA is inconsistent. I know people in CAs who are discouraged from challenging LA decisions and I know people who say that would never happen. Same happens in LAs. Some can’t challenge their own decisions and some are okay with that. I can remember 28 years ago working for a CA where we were specifically asked to drop a HB issue from being pursued to the Ombudsman else funding would be at risk. Times change but we all know that the real picture remains patchy.

3) Whether or not CA are impartial the perception of impartiality matters just as much. That argument appears to have been largely lost by CA. On social media claimant activists are quite clear they won’t be using CA again specifically because of this and their many followers appear to agree. The statements put out at the time by CA were limited and attacked for lack of clarity. The idea that CA would continue to challenge government was almost immediately undermined by a failure to comment on the claimant deaths issue for example. See DNS for more on that one.

New claimants, largely ignorant or indifferent to the arguments, will likely use CA.

Andrew Dutton
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I had a go at a FoI to ask how any personal budgeting support and debt help will be provided from April.

Clearly I have a lot to learn about how to ask questions of officialdom, as Sir Humphrey runs rings round me here.

In short, however, the between-lines answer is ‘Someone will do it. Not us. Not our problem.’

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shawn mach
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Question asked of CitA on Twitter from Ealing Equality Council:

Q?: @CitizensAdvice please tell us who will cover UC support in London borough of Ealing when your service starts in April. We have no local CAB.

A: Hi there, thanks for your message. I will look into this and get back to you with a private message ...

https://twitter.com/WLEquality/status/1085531046245007362

Gareth Morgan
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shawn - 16 January 2019 04:04 PM

@CitizensAdvice please tell us who will cover UC support in London borough of Ealing when your service starts in April. We have no local CAB.

A: Hi there, thanks for your message. I will look into this and get back to you with a private message

Quite right too. You wouldn’t want just anyone knowing where to get help.

shawn mach
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shawn - 16 January 2019 04:04 PM

Question asked of CitA on Twitter from Ealing Equality Council:

Q?: @CitizensAdvice please tell us who will cover UC support in London borough of Ealing when your service starts in April. We have no local CAB.

A: Hi there, thanks for your message. I will look into this and get back to you with a private message ...

https://twitter.com/WLEquality/status/1085531046245007362

CitA’s reply now replaced with:

Hi there, thanks for your question. We’re working with our local Citizens Advice in the surrounding areas to ensure that claimants in Ealing have access to the new service once it is launched in April. ...

https://twitter.com/CitizensAdvice/status/1085585352151232512

shawn mach
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From the Lancashire Telegraph (spotted via a GMWRAG tweet) ..

Cllr Kay said: “The CAB still does not know how much money they will be entitled to. There is only a few weeks to go until this kicks in and we have got a major problem.

“I am concerned how much they are going to be given.

“At the moment, CAB do not think they will be able to deliver the service we would expect our residents to receive.

“We are not clear how they’re going to deliver support.

“They are talking about web chats but if you have not got a laptop or PC, how are you going to do that? One of their briefs is to support people with no digital skills.”

https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/17389016.concern-over-universal-credit-support-programme-funding/

Peter Turville
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The local CA pilot project is offering 5 appts a week for face to face UC claim support (by referral or via drop-in at CA).

Mike Hughes
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Peter Turville - 30 January 2019 01:12 PM

The local CA pilot project is offering 5 appts a week for face to face UC claim support (by referral or via drop-in at CA).

Sooooo, “patchy” it is then!

shawn mach
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Govt press release today on the new Help to Claim service:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-help-to-claim-service-provides-extra-universal-credit-support

Gov.uk’s ‘How to claim’ page links people through to:

England and Wales: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/helptoclaim
Scotland: https://www.cas.org.uk/helptoclaim

Gareth Morgan
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So, as suspected it’s very limited to the DWP’s needs (with my emphases in bold):

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd said:

“One of the best things about Universal Credit is its flexibility. It recognises that everyone is different and it’s not a one-size-fits-all benefit.

So for anyone who needs that little bit of extra help to make their claim, new help is now here.

In addition to the support Jobcentre Plus staff already provide, Citizens Advice will now deliver high quality, independent advice through Help to Claim.

Help to Claim will provide free, confidential and impartial support to help people make a Universal Credit claim. People using the service can get advice on anything to do with applying for the benefit, including gathering the required evidence, filling in the application or preparing for their first jobcentre appointment.

Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland are committed to providing ‘Help to Claim’ across all areas of England, Wales and Scotland ensuring a consistent service across Great Britain. People will be able to access support online, over the phone and face-to-face through local Citizens Advice bureaus.

Anyone who requires support to make a new Universal Credit claim or is moving from a legacy benefit to Universal Credit following a change of circumstances can access Help to Claim.”

Where do you go when having any further needs, challenging a decision or making a second claim after having 5 paydays in a month?

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I suspect that a minister has got it wrong… but if not, then this service is much broader than thought.

From the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on the welfare safety net last week, when discussing sanctions:

“DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson, asked about what is being done to support claimants who may have sanctions and other deductions, said that claimants in that position should be talking to their work coach but that Citizens Advice Universal Support will also be able to offer support. “

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Gareth Morgan - 02 April 2019 04:44 PM

I suspect that a minister has got it wrong… but if not, then this service is much broader than thought.

From the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on the welfare safety net last week, when discussing sanctions:

“DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson, asked about what is being done to support claimants who may have sanctions and other deductions, said that claimants in that position should be talking to their work coach but that Citizens Advice Universal Support will also be able to offer support. “

I think we can file that particular contribution in the Making it up as we go along drawer Gareth.

Mike Hughes
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Very clear that you go to US for the claim. Any issues after that and you’re queuing down the street with everyone else. US lasts until the first correct payment though so in theory it could last multiple quarters. Given the numbers of staff involved that seems wholly untenable.

Jon (CHDCA)
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I suspect that the question on support for “claimants who may have sanctions and other deductions” is more aimed at ongoing budgeting support, than it is at challenging a decision. But it’s worth noting that if there is a problem with the first payment, assistance with an appropriate MR is in the scope of the new service

Peter Turville
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Experience to date suggests that the process can be rather ‘clunky’. If one phones the appt. helpline CA have to phone back with the appointment. They don’t seem able to book it there and then (while the client is in the office).

Similarly if you phone the line about the request (or appointment) there doesn’t appear to be any record of the original call (at least until the appt. has been booked) and/or one speaks to a different person who has no knowledge of the original call handler (this suggests that the call handlers are not co-located?).

What should one expect for £39m?

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Peter Turville - 29 April 2019 04:14 PM

What should one expect for £39m?

Half a decent footballer?

Peter Turville
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Mike Hughes - 29 April 2019 04:27 PM
Peter Turville - 29 April 2019 04:14 PM

What should one expect for £39m?

Half a decent footballer?

Surely Mike WFC could buy a whole team to get automatic promotion for that sum and have a few quid over for the open top bus parade?

UPDATE

Apparently the help line has to notify the local bureau of the request who then have to contact the client / adviser with the appt. One cannot cut out this process and simply request an appt. direct with the local bureau!

Presumably this is to reflect and prepare the claimant for the ‘efficiency’ of the UC process in general?

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Peter Turville - 29 April 2019 04:35 PM

UPDATE

Apparently the help line has to notify the local bureau of the request who then have to contact the client / adviser with the appt. One cannot cut out this process and simply request an appt. direct with the local bureau!

Presumably this is to reflect and prepare the claimant for the ‘efficiency’ of the UC process in general?

That’s strange because Get help applying for Universal Credit webpage contains the following as well as details of the helpline etc:

Find your nearest Citizens Advice

Enter your postcode or town to get contact details and opening hours for your nearest Citizens Advice.

So if we tell our local Age UK’s to simply send someone to the local CA, they won’t give them an appointment? Or are you talking about telephoning the local CA for an appointment?

Mike Hughes
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Peter Turville - 29 April 2019 04:35 PM
Mike Hughes - 29 April 2019 04:27 PM
Peter Turville - 29 April 2019 04:14 PM

What should one expect for £39m?

Half a decent footballer?

Surely Mike WFC could buy a whole team to get automatic promotion for that sum and have a few quid over for the open top bus parade?

UPDATE

Apparently the help line has to notify the local bureau of the request who then have to contact the client / adviser with the appt. One cannot cut out this process and simply request an appt. direct with the local bureau!

Presumably this is to reflect and prepare the claimant for the ‘efficiency’ of the UC process in general?

Interesting. One of our other managers tried this all a couple of weeks back and it seemed, as has been said, clunky at best. I can’t remember the detail now but it wasn’t good.

Now, that’s WAFC (that A is really significant) to you and if we ever had £39m I think we would go for a 4th side of the ground (the kop) which has been derelict and unsafe for too long now before we ever bought a player. Fans owned clubs are all about gradual improvement and sustainability. The opposite of test and learn as enacted by UC come to think of it :)

Jon (CHDCA)
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Peter Turville - 30 January 2019 01:12 PM

The local CA pilot project is offering 5 appts a week for face to face UC claim support (by referral or via drop-in at CA).

If one phones the appt. helpline CA have to phone back with the appointment. They don’t seem able to book it there and then (while the client is in the office).

If it helps, you were right the first time. There is no national “appointment helpline”. There is a national telephone number, where you can ring and get advice over the phone, or there is a face-to-face service run by local offices. If you want or need to “switch channels” you can be referred, eg by the phone service to the local office for face to face. A claimant should also be able to approach a local office directly (see the “no wrong door” document which was linked somewhere on here), but not all offices have the same capacity and systems, despite the national organization’s attempts to herd all the cats in the same direction, so there may be variation in exactly how to get an appointment. Just like for any other CAB advice. Might be worth you speaking to your local office about whether a direct referral system is feasible, or at least get a handle on what their demand is for appointments?

This is all my personal understanding, I’m obviously not in a position to speak on anyone’s behalf ....