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Legal fund walk

MORE than £2,000 was raised to help help-points in Bognor Regis and Chichester get ready for an expected surge in clients.


Volunteers and staff of Citizens Advice in the two areas, as well as at Littlehampton, took part in the 10km Chichester Legal Walk on Tuesday night.


The sponsorship of the 100-plus people who stepped out around the cathedral city will support those residents who will be switched on to Universal Credit next April by the government.


Citizens Advice Arun and Chichester chief exective Carol Groves said: “Citizens Advice need support to enable us to train volunteers who provide advice free of charge and to invest in PC terminals as the only way to claim Universal Credit is to apply online. It is estimated that 20 per cent of claimants will have difficulty applying online.”


The three centres are expecting an increase of 25 per cent in their number of clients once existing benefits are changed to Universal Credit.


This is based on the experience of Citizens Advice 1066 (Hastings and Rother) where the Universal Credit full service was launched last December.


There had also been a 300 per cent increase in food vouchers issued since the change.


To cope with demand, the 1066 centres had to increase their opening hours and set up a financial capability team. This delivers personal budgeting advice for clients moving to monthly Universal Credit payments and to oversee basic IT training to help them to manage their online claims.


“A 25 per cent increase in demand will result in longer waiting times for clients to access assistance and appointments,” said Mrs Groves.


“In turn, this will have serious consequences to other clients who are seeking advice on issues unrelated to Universal Credit as their waiting times will also increase.


“In order to mitigate the demand, Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice are doing fundraising events, such as legal walks, to highlight the issue and raise funds to strengthen our welfare benefit team.”


The team would also liaise with Arun and Chichester district councils and the Department of Work and Pensions to share knowledge and resources as well as highlight the issue with MPs in the area.


Walkers from Citizens Advice Arun and Chichester will also be taking part in the Walk the Thames event on October 28 for the same cause.


As reported, the temporary version of Universal Credit has seen some of the poorest residents of Bognor Regis facing waits for payments of up to six weeks. Added to this, some claimants are unsure how much they will be receiving to add to their worries.

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