by Neasa MacEarlan
Homeless charity Catching Lives will be helping rough sleepers and other vulnerable people in Canterbury claim the new Universal Credit benefit.
Without guidance, they face the prospect of not being able to claim it if they lack such things as a bank account, smartphone, computer, email address, proof of identity, address or experience of using technology.
Catching Lives, which is based in Station Road East, is witnessing one or two of these cases a week and expects to see numbers grow from next week.
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With the city’s night shelter starting on October 1, there is expected to be a flow of people wanting to take advantage of it and who then go onto having more stable accommodation — thus triggering the change in circumstances which means they are taken off their old benefits regime and put into the system for Universal Credit.
Graeme Solly of Catching Lives said: “The key is communication. For a lot of people Universal Credit is working. We are the voice of the smaller number who are struggling with it.”
The benefits team at Catching Lives is help claimants complete an online application in about 30 minutes. And it is working closely with the staff at the Job Centre to help them with problems.
A particular issue is the “chicken and egg” situation of people who cannot get a bank account without ID and who cannot get ID without a bank account. It may be possible to issue them provisional driving licences as a first step.
Another problem is that the Housing Benefit element of Universal Credit is paid to the claimant, rather to their landlord — but in cases where the claimant has an addiction, for example, direct payments might be allowed to continue.