In November we wrote about the new welfare benefit, Universal Credit (UC), which was about to start in our area for anyone of working age needing to make a new benefit claim. It rolls six previous benefits into one, must be claimed online and is paid calendar monthly rather than every two weeks.

Some people are having real difficulty with UC. The biggest group is those without a computer or digital skills who need help to apply. It is then at least five weeks before any money is paid, and although an advance payment is possible this still leaves some people struggling. Having all the benefit income paid once a calendar month, including help with housing costs, has caused difficulty with budgeting especially for people with an uncertain income.

There have been other difficulties including mistakes being made in the calculations, especially with the housing costs, which can lead to debt, rent arrears and possible evictions. Since the roll out of UC we have seen an increase in the number of people coming to Citizens Advice for debt advice and to ask for food bank referrals.

One of the roles of Citizens Advice is to gather evidence when we see things that are causing hardship.

UC has been introduced gradually across the country and evidence from areas where it has been in place for some time has managed to help get some changes made such as reducing the waiting period from six to five weeks and allowing an advance payment to be asked for from the start. However, more needs to be done and we would ask anyone affected to contact us for help resolving their problem and to provide evidence for our report.

Citizens Advice can be contacted at 1 Acland Rd Dorchester, on 0344 2451219 or visit