On 1 October 2018, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey announced at the Conservative party conference that Citizens Advice is to provide help and support to universal credit claimants with £39m of funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The new service will commence from 1 April 2019. The cash is coming from the DWP’s universal support budget. Local authorities currently provide the service and will lose the funding, which will be transferred to the Citizens Advice service.
Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, said that she welcomed ‘the opportunity to provide even more people with the help they need with universal credit, and deliver a consistent service through the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales’ (‘Citizens Advice to provide support to universal credit claimants
’, DWP press release, 1 October 2018). She said the service had already advised 150,000 people with problems with universal credit, adding: ‘We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people struggle to make a claim and their payments are delayed.’
Staff in local Citizens Advice centres to whom Legal Action spoke were generally pleased with the announcement, but said they needed more detail about what they were going to be expected to deliver under the new service. Some were also concerned that local councils might choose to take the cash they’ll lose from the grants they currently provide to support local Citizens Advice centres.