Today marks the next step in the radical reshaping of the welfare state so that the system works for hardworking people, as Universal Credit is launched in parts of the North-West.
People who live in Ashton-under-Lyne will be able to make claims to the new benefit from today. At the same time, Jobcentres in Oldham, Wigan, and Warrington will trial other elements of Universal Credit, including the new Claimant Commitment and signing people onto Universal Jobmatch.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
This Government is on the side of people who want to work hard and get on.
Universal Credit is nothing less than the start of a fundamental cultural shift of the welfare system. This will revolutionise the way people experience the welfare state. It will make it easier for people claim what they are entitled to, but more importantly, it will make it easier for people to move off benefits and into work.
This is the first step on a long journey, and the pathfinder is our opportunity to get Universal Credit right. We will bring in this radical and vital reform in a careful and controlled way.
Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:
The start of Universal Credit today is a big step forward. We are finally implementing a benefit system that is fairer, where claimants will be better off in work than on benefits.
We are introducing Universal Credit in a slow and safe manner so that we get this important reform right and help more people move smoothly from benefits and into work.
The pathfinder will run from today through to the start of a progressive national roll out from October and this early testing of the new benefit will inform planning.
The first claimants to Universal Credit will be single jobseekers. Around 7000 people are expected to get Universal Credit during the pathfinder period. And those Universal Credit claims will respond in real time to changes in people’s circumstances, including when people move back into work.
People who claim Universal Credit will have access to support delivered by a mix of local authorities and third sector organisations to help them budget their money, and get online to manage their claim.
- Universal Credit will replace Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Housing Benefit.
- Jobcentre advisers and claimants will agree a Claimant Commitment, based on their individual circumstances, which will clearly set out the jobseeker’s responsibilities to find work.
- When a claimant starts work, Universal Credit will be steadily withdrawn as their income increases.
- Ashton-under-Lyne is the first Jobcentre to take claims for Universal Credit on April 29 with Wigan, Warrington and Oldham Jobcentres trialling the new Universal Credit Claimant Commitment on the same date and taking claims for Universal Credit from July.
- The roll-out of Universal Credit will be completed across the UK by 2017.
Universal Credit Pathfinder – Factsheet
The early introduction of Universal Credit begins in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire area from April 2013. This is known as a Pathfinder, and it will trial Universal Credit with a limited number of people six months before progressive national roll-out begins in October.
It will be delivered through the four local Jobcentres in selected areas of Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham, Warrington and Wigan. There are clear eligibility criteria people must meet to make a claim during Pathfinder, and claims will be made online from 29 April.
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages from April 2013 and will be completed by 2017:
- 29 April 2013: The Pathfinder for Universal Credit begins in selected areas within the local authorities of Oldham, Tameside, Warrington and Wigan.
- Ashton-under-Lyne will be the first Jobcentre to accept claims for Universal Credit from 29 April.
- From 29 April, Wigan, Warrington and Oldham Jobcentres will begin by trialling the new Claimant Commitment and will take claims for Universal Credit starting from July.
- Gradual national rollout will start from October 2013, and full Universal Credit migration will be completed by 2017.
Which claimants will be involved in Pathfinder?
From 29 April newly unemployed people in certain areas of Ashton-Under-Lyne may be able to claim Universal Credit if they meet certain eligibility criteria. These include being a UK citizen, having a National Insurance number and being aged between 18 and 60 years and 6 months. If a person is not eligible to claim Universal Credit they will be directed to another appropriate benefit
Online claims in Pathfinder
From 29 April all Universal Credit claims should be made online.
A telephone helpline will be available Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm to help people complete their claim online.
Eight computers will be available at Ashton-Under-Lyne Jobcentre Plus to help people who do not have access to the internet, and over 130 computers will also be available at certain libraries and council offices in Tameside.
Some people may need additional help to claim online which is why help to go online is available. In some circumstances a telephone or face-to-face claim may be made.
Universal Credit factsheet
What is it?
Universal Credit will provide a single monthly payment if people are on a low income or out of work. It will include support for the costs of housing, children and childcare, as well as support for disabled people and carers.
Between April 2013 and the end of 2017, Universal Credit will replace:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
How is it being introduced?
Universal Credit will be introduced in phases from April 2013. When it will affect people will depend on where they live and any benefits they currently claim. Initially it is being introduced in areas of Greater Manchester and Cheshire for some newly unemployed people.
How is it claimed?
Eligible people can make their Universal Credit claim online at www.gov.uk/universalcredit. If they cannot claim online, face to face and telephone support will be available until they can get access to the internet.
In return for receiving Universal Credit, a person must accept and fulfil a Claimant Commitment that sets out their responsibilities and the consequences of not meeting them. If they are unemployed but able to work people will be expected to make looking for a job their full time focus.
How is it paid?
Universal Credit will be paid monthly, directly into an account the claimant has chosen. A range of support services will be available if people need help with budgeting and managing their money.
Where necessary it will be possible to use alternative arrangements, such as fortnightly payments, for a period of time.
How does it help people into work?
Universal Credit aims to ensure people will be better off in work. As people’s take home pay increases from work their Universal Credit will reduce gradually so they won’t lose all their benefits at once. There are no fixed hours thresholds, such as the 16 hours a week rule, so even working just a few hours a week will make a difference.
Universal Credit will also introduce Real Time Information (RTI) to help employers manage their payroll and help their staff get the right benefit payments. When people are in work and their hours change their employer will report it on RTI and their Universal Credit payment will be adjusted accordingly.
We’ve published a Universal Credit toolkit for partner organisations to help them explain the changes to claimants.
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