Is Universal Credit Coming Soon?
Sangeeta Enright sets out the up to date position on the government’s flagship policy.
Universal Credit is one of the government’s biggest welfare reforms and was introduced in April 2013. It has since been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee due to the problems with the technology. However, the project has now been ‘reset’ and official figures show that there are 11,000 on Universal Credit currently with an accelerated roll-out plan just announced for single jobseekers making new claims.
It will merge six means-tested benefits – Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, and Housing Benefit – into a single payment.
If you already receive one of these benefits; you will stay on them unless your circumstances change and you are in a roll-out area, or if the transfer process applies to you.
Broadly speaking, many have welcomed this change as the payment of Universal Credit seeks to remove the barriers that claimants have when they move in and out of work, including part-time work. It also seeks to use ‘real-time information’ about wages.
One of the biggest changes will be the ‘claimant commitment’ and those already working part-time will come under pressure to gain more hours, where previously on Tax Credits, this would not have happened.
A big difference is the move to monthly payments which the government hopes will teach claimants about budgeting in the same way as if they receive wages.
Another potential problem is the plan to make claimants wait 7 days until they are entitled to some benefits, including Universal Credit. Charities and campaigners are concerned that this will lead to further reliance on food banks and unaffordable loans from certain lenders. The Social Security Advisory Committee has launched a public consultation on this, with submissions welcome by 17th October 2014.
Migration to Universal Credit for the majority of benefits and tax credits claimants is not imminent but continues to cause concern as a project riddled with delays and huge expense, especially as we get nearer to the general election.
For advice with regard to welfare benefits, please contact Sangeeta Enright either on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.