The director of Universal Credit was in Hove today as the controversial new benefits system is rolled out across the city, affecting around 20,000 households over the next few years.
— Neil Couling (@NeilCouling) October 4, 2017
As the phased rollout begins today, concerns have been raised by local councillors about how the changes will affect people, and delays to payments which have been experienced in other areas.
The council has been preparing to support anyone affected – but warns that its ability to do so has been limited by the changes.
Councillor Emma Daniel, chair of the neighbourhoods, said: “The introduction of universal credit is a big change and we do have concerns about levels of support around the claim process and the delays in payments.
“Going 8-12 weeks without money will be a loan sharks’ charter
“We’ve done a lot of work around the likely impacts of the change in the city and worked with our community and voluntary sector partners to make sure the support services are in place to help people as much as possible.
“However, the move away from housing benefit and council budget reductions does limit our ability to help people financially.
“The Jobcentre will tell you if you need to apply for Universal Credit. We strongly advise people to respond to all correspondence with the Jobcentre and the department of Work and Pensions and stay on top of their claim. We also advise people to get help and support early if they’re worried about money or making claims online.”
The phased rollout in the city begins today for BN3 postcodes, 29 November for BN2 and mid-January 2018 for BN41 and BN1 areas. This will be for people making new claims and for claimants whose circumstances change. The introduction coincides with approximately 100 other areas throughout the UK.
It is expected that other people who are already on benefits, and who do not have a change of circumstances, will be subject transfer over to Universal Credit between 2019 and 2022. The Jobcentre will write to claimants to tell them when they will need to make a claim for Universal Credit.
Universal Credit combines six existing benefits, Housing Benefit, Working and Child Tax Credits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. The main changes for claimants will be:
- Universal Credit will be claimed and managed online
- No benefit is paid for first seven days for most claimants
- Payment will be paid monthly in arrears by default
- Payment will default to a single member of the household
- First payment is usually made six weeks (or longer) from the initial claim
- The rent element will be paid to the claimant by default, rather than the landlord
Although existing claims for help with rent will continue to be handled by the council, new claims will not, meaning a gradually reducing role for the council in providing financial welfare support for residents.
There has been a lot of work across council services to prepare for the changes and help minimise the impact on residents, including commissioning advice and support services to help with budgeting and money issues, and help to get online. The council has also produced a quick guide outlining possible solutions to likely issues claimants will face.
For more information about Universal Credit, go to www.gov.uk/universalcredit
For information on support and advice in Brighton & Hove, go to www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/universal-credit.