Local authorities will have a role in shaping and delivering Universal Credit, Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, said today.
The DWP and the Local Government Association have jointly issued a prospectus calling on local authorities to deliver pilots to support residents in preparation for the introduction of Universal Credit in 2013.
The pilots will focus on delivering the face-to-face support people may need to make claims for Universal Credit, providing help to get online and encouraging financial independence.
Lord Freud said:
Local authorities will have a role in supporting residents to claim Universal Credit and these pilots create an opportunity for councils to be at the forefront of shaping that role working with DWP and other partners.
Universal Credit is a radical reform and we expect strong bids from councils working with local groups to help people access online services and to encourage financial independence.
Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said:
It is vital that local people are fully supported when these benefit and tax credit changes come into place.
Councils have a central role to play in providing face-to-face assistance and advice in the new welfare system, as they have a strong understanding of local job markets and the needs of their residents.
Ensuring that the pilots are run smoothly, with any lessons learnt, will play an important role in working towards a smoother rollout later next year.
Local authorities will be expected to work with DWP, Jobcentre Plus and community groups to support residents during the transition to Universal Credit and to act as examples of best practice to other councils.
Pilots are expected to start this autumn ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit in October 2013.
The pilots will provide simpler services for claimants and will focus on:
- encouraging claimants to access online support independently
- improving financial independence and managing money
- delivering efficiencies and reducing fraud and error
Further pilots covering local authorities’ long-term role in the delivery of Universal Credit will be announced next year.
From October 2013, tax credits and benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Income Support will start to be merged into a single Universal Credit payment.
This means people will receive a single payment each month which will help ensure they will be better off in work than on benefits.
Note to Editors:
- The Prospectus: ‘Preparing for universal credit Prospectus for 2013 focus local authority led pilots’ is available here: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/local-government-finance/-/journal_content/56/10161/3618873/ARTICLE-TEMPLATE
- The DWP is working with CoSLA and the WLGA on separate prospectus to be published shortly for Scotland and Wales.
- Universal Credit will be rolled out from October 2013 with approximately 12 to 13 million tax credit and benefit claims transformed into eight million Universal Credit payments.
- The local authority led pilots will complement work already underway as a part of the preparation for Universal Credit, including Pathfinder and the direct payment demonstration project.