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Citizens Advice Stevenage puts the spotlight on problems with the application process for Universal Credit

Citizens Advice Stevenage is flagging problems with the application process for Universal Credit, following the release of new report from national Citizens Advice.


The report finds that although the benefit is working well for many, a significant number have problems with the application process. A third of people who’ve been helped by the charity say they struggle to provide the evidence needed to finish off their Universal Credit application.


Universal Credit is a new benefit which combines 6 benefits into 1,including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Working Tax Credits. It is currently being rolled out across the UK, and will be introduced in Stevenage in October 2018.


Once Universal Credit has been fully implemented in Stevenage by 2023, 11,000 of people are expected to receive it.

National Citizens Advice asked people the Citizens Advice service helped with Universal Credit how hard they found it to provide proof for extra costs, like housing and childcare.

 Of those who were surveyed:

● 48% found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions

● 40% found it difficult to provide evidence for housing

● 35% found it difficult to provide evidence for childcare


The charity also found that people receiving their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt, or falling into it. When people didn’t receive their first Universal Credit payment on time, their chances of being in debt increased by a quarter (23%). They were also 60% more likely to borrow money from a lender to help tide them over.


The report recommends that the government simplifies the claims process, makes it easier to provide evidence for extras costs, and makes sure adequate support is on offer to people making a claim.


Nina Villa, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Stevenage, said:


“Universal Credit is working for most people, but a significant number are having problems completing their claim.


“This new research shows that providing evidence for extra costs is a common stumbling block when making an application, and can put the brakes on people being paid on time.


“The government should make it easier to provide evidence online and ensure people are made aware of what’s required of them so they receive their payment on time.”


Call 03444 111444 for advice or visit the website, www.stevenagecab.org.uk for further information


Citizens Advice Stevenage helps people get clued up on spotting scams
Citizens Advice Stevenage are holding an event in the town centre on Friday 15th June to help people know when they’ve been targeted with a scam and how they can report it.

The event is part of Scams Awareness Month, a national campaign encouraging people to report and talk about scams. It comes as Citizens Advice has seen a rise in cases reported in the year ending April 2018.

Action Fraud referred 1,073 crimes to police forces in Hertfordshire between April 2016 – March 2017. The top frauds involved plastic card, online bank accounts and online shopping with the top enablers being phones, emails and online sales.

Citizens Advice Stevenage are running an event to empower people so they “Don’t miss a trick” and are aware of the types of scams in the local area. You can visit them on Friday 15th June next to the fountain in Stevenage Town Centre between 10am – 2pm.

Attendees will be encouraged to watch out for scammers and report them to the police to try and get their money back and help stop others being targeted.

Top Tips
  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise.
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away.
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • Never send money to someone you have never met.
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you.
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait give minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call.

  • Visit the Citizens Advice Stevenage website for advice.
  • Call Citizens Advice Stevenage on 03444 111 444.
  • Report scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or @actionfrauduk on Twitter.
  • Tell friends, family and neighbours about scams.
  • Get involved in the conversation using the #scamaware hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.
Citizens Advice Stevenage thanks volunteers for making huge difference to people's lives
Citizens Advice Stevenage is celebrating its volunteers who dedicate their time to solving people’s problems and making a difference to their lives.Volunteers Week, which runs from 1-7 June, is themed volunteering for all and the charity wants to highlight the work of its team, which helps people in the community struggling with debt, housing, benefit and employment issues among other issues.

Almost 80 volunteers at Stevenage Citizens Advice give up 330 each week and last year helped more than 5500 people with more than 29,000 problems.The charity’s volunteers have played a crucial role ensuring people in Stevenage get the advice and support they need to get on with their lives.Citizens Advice offers a wide range of voluntary roles including fundraising, advisers, administrators and trustees.

Ryann Hansen, started volunteering at Citizens Advice Stevenage while he was studying at university. He said: “I really feel like my role makes a difference, by helping people sort out problems that have been holding them back and the skills I’ve learned have really helped me develop confidence for my own career prospects.”

Nina Villa, Chief Executive Officer at Citizens Advice Stevenage said: “Our fantastic volunteers make a huge difference to people’s lives. They give up their free time to help people in their community, who may be going through problems, to get back on their feet. Volunteering is for everybody and it brings its own rewards. It’s a great way to meet people and learn skills. If you’d like to help people in your area and can spare a few hours, we’d love to hear from you.”

Nationally, 23,000 Citizens Advice volunteers help provide support in 2,900 locations across England and Wales - helping 2.7 million people every year.

Thanks to the contribution volunteers play in local Citizens Advice, 2 out of every 3 clients have their problem solved and 4 out of 5 say the advice received improved their lives. If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Stevenage get in touch on 01438 344238 and leave a message for Stacey or visit our website www.stevenagecab.org.uk/joinus
Citizens Advice Stevenage recruits new Chief Executive
Citizens Advice Stevenage are pleased to announce the appointment of Nina Villa to the position of Chief Executive Officer.

After completing her legal studies, Nina started her career as a medic with London Ambulance Service before moving in to various senior local government roles within Hertfordshire. In addition to her most recent role as Deputy Chief Executive at the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner, she also spent many years as a Royal Navy Reservist and has held various voluntary roles. She brings with her significant Board level experience in a variety of organisations. Nina says “I am delighted to be joining such a fantastic team of trustees, staff and volunteers. I look forward to helping them build on the strong foundations left by the previous CEO and to continue to develop our invaluable service. Citizens Advice Stevenage has ambitious plans to grow and develop our advice service to the Stevenage community despite facing a challenging funding environment and I am delighted to be able to be part of delivering those ambitions”.

Of the appointment, Chair of Trustee Board, Richard Westergreen-Thorne commented, “We are delighted to welcome Nina to Citizens Advice Stevenage, who brings with her a great amount of experience and expertise to help us continue to move the organisation forward. Nina has a strong track record and we look forward to working with her to execute our ambitious business strategy.”

Citizens Advice Stevenage is an independent charity supported predominantly by Stevenage Borough Council and by securing community support contracts. It provides advice and education to solve individuals’ problems. It helps people find a way forward, and develops the skills to prevent a similar scenario arising again. It also champions research and campaigns using data to understand the impact of policy and regulation- then campaigns for policy change to solve collective problems. Their services are delivered through the 79 volunteers, and 23 paid staff.

To contact them for advice, or to volunteer, get in touch on 03444 111444 or visit the website, www.stevenagecab.org.uk for further information