The DWP has recently set up the Universal Credit Helpline (Telephone: 0845 600 0723 and Textphone: 0845 600 0743) to answer questions on Universal Credit and to help people make an online claim. We wanted to know how the Helpline was working.
To find out, I put it to the test. I asked them questions often posed to us in comments on our FAQ page to see how their answers compared to our knowledge of Universal Credit. I made a new call for each question with some time lapsed in between so that I could speak to multiple advisors.
The Helpline has an automated system to filter calls but rather than the usual menu format, you simply state the reason you have called. This system works well for simple things like ‘making a claim’ but can be frustrating for more complex issues.
Once I was put through to an advisor, things were much easier. I did not have to wait on hold more than 30 seconds on any call but this may be because not many people know about the Helpline yet. The advisors were more than happy to answer my questions about Universal Credit (as best they could) without asking any of my personal details. Only once I was asked for my postcode and this was used to reassure me that I would not yet be affected by Universal Credit.
Most of the information that Helpline advisors give is readily available online (including in our FAQ page), so it will not be repeated here. However they also give new information not available elsewhere. Unfortunately, this means that it cannot be fact-checked.
Can I get payments more frequently?
On the very popular question of how to get Universal Credit payments more often, the Universal Credit Helpline gives information on how the process might look for claimants. The advisor told me that claimants could request more frequent payments in a letter to the DWP detailing their personal circumstances (for example, if they have difficulty managing money or if they need to pay a bill earlier than usual) and should give as much information as possible. This letter would then go to a “decision-maker” who would assess the request.
Can my housing benefit be paid directly to my landlord?
When asked if I could still have my housing benefit paid directly to my landlord, the Helpline advises that this would be possible if I kept missing payments. The advisor says that the arrears threshold – the amount of missed payments that triggers the switch from direct payments to payments to the landlord – would be different for every local authority which is a detail we have not heard about.
Overall, the Universal Credit Helpline advisors are friendly and knowledgeable. I would recommend that people worried about Universal Credit try it out. Do you have a question that you would like to ask the Helpline? Give it a call on 0845 600 0723 and let us know how helpful you found it in the comments below.
(Please note that calls to 0845 numbers are typically charged at between 1p and 10.5p per minute for landline customers and between 12p and 41p per minute for calls on a mobile.)