Citizens Advice Cornwall is launching a new specialist benefit advice service for the county which will help people with their problems applying for Universal Credit and issues such as tribunals and appeals.

The new service builds on the success of the Help to Claim team, which was run under a government contract.

CA Cornwall Chief Executive, Gill Pipkin, said:

“Although our Help to Claim contract with the government is coming to an end, we’re delighted to be able to continue providing a service for people who come across difficulties with their Universal Credit claims.

“This means we can build on the excellent work our Help to Claim team has done over the last three years and retain their knowledge and expertise for the people who need it in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”

Gill added:

“We are also looking for partner organisations, who have clients or members that might benefit from this service to help people with their claims and using the team as a shared resource.”

Under Help to Claim, the specialist advice team have been able to help thousands of people in Cornwall with their applications since the new Universal Credit benefit was launched in the county in 2018.

Because applications for Universal Credit are online, people without IT skills or equipment have found it difficult to apply by themselves, while others are unclear about the application process or have difficulty providing the evidence required to make a claim.

Citizens Advice Cornwall Head of Operations, Jon Berg, said:

“We regularly see cases where people in Cornwall have been unable to claim because of the complexity of the system or because of their particular circumstances, leading to great financial hardship.

“By continuing to provide this locally based and locally funded service, we’ll be able to hold face-to-face sessions for the most vulnerable people to help them make their claims.”

In the last year, the team at Citizens Advice Cornwall helped 1,639 with their Universal Credit applications.

The main problems people encountered when applying for Universal Credit were eligibility, understanding payments, how payments were calculated, the effect of earnings on payment amounts and evidence and verification for their application.