Looking at Universal Credit

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud.
Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud.

Daventry Jobcentre Plus has been announced has one of 150 job centres across the country which will be taking Universal Credit.

The centre, which is currently based at Daventry District Council offices in Lodge Road, will be taking Universal Credit claims for the first time from February 2015.

Universal Credit is a new system which merges six different payments into one and will simplify the procedures for claiming benefits.

The new system is designed so that people will be better off when they are in employment. For the first time, people will also be helped when they are in work to earn more.

The Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: “We’ve already seen remarkable successes, with Universal Credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer.

“As part of our long-term economic plan, people in Daventry will have the financial security of knowing that working more pays more money.”

He also moved to assure people that staff working at the centre will be available to give them a hand when the new system is introduced.

Lord Freud added: “Our work coaches in Daventry Jobcentre will give claimants tailored support they need to get into work.

“For the first time will give people support when they are in work to earn more.”

Claims will initially be open to single jobseekers.

People will get one monthly payment rather than fortnightly ones, mirroring the way most people are paid in work.

And because Universal Credit allows Jobcentres to access real-time HMRC earnings data, it means that exactly the right level of support is in place to help people finding their way back into work, including topping up claimants’ earnings when they are on a low income.

Talking about the introduction of the scheme, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP said: “We’ve already seen remarkable success, with universal credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer.

“As part of our long-term economic plan, people in the East Midlands will have the financial security of knowing that if they work more they will earn more.

“By spring 2015 universal credit will be in a third of the country’s job centres as part of the wholesale transformation of the welfare state - providing the country with an economic benefit of £7 billion each year when rolled out.”

However not everyone is enthusiastic about the plans. Critics have argued the plans are flawed, the IT systems are not up to the job, and some have fears that people could have to negotiate a lot of bureaucracy to get the money they are entitled to.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Daventry and district councillor for Braunston and Welton Cllr Abigail Campbell, said: “We have misgivings about Daventry being part of the next roll-out of Universal Credit.

“It’s been a shambles so far, with major delays and over £130 million of tax payers’ money wasted on failed IT programmes.

“I also have big concerns about the impact of universal credit on the many self-employed people in Daventry.

“It looks as though they will face a minefield of red-tape to prove they are gainfully self-employed. Universal Credit could end up ensuring that only the affluent can afford to set up and grow their own businesses.”

Cllr Wendy Randall, leader of the Labour on Daventry District Council added: “I am really worried about the monthly payments, which can make it much harder to budget.

“Many people, even those in work, are already finding there’s too much month at the end of the money. This will only make it worse.

“And on top of this, the Chancellor George Osborne has said he’s going to freeze all working age benefits, including Universal Credit, for two years – that’s going to place an even bigger strain on household budgets that are already stretched to the limit”.

Universal Credit is already available in almost 100 Jobcentre areas around the country and is now available in all of the North West of England.

The next stage of Universal Credit roll out means that it will be available in one in three of the country’s Jobcentres.

Universal Credit is replacing the six main out-of-work benefits and tax credits.

It is paid monthly and direct into people’s bank accounts in the same way most people in work receive their salaries.

Universal credit is designed to top up your income to a minimum level. Providing your income and savings don’t go above certain limits, you can carry on claiming universal credit if you are working or out of work.

Universal credit may help people on low incomes who move in and out of work by reducing the problems caused by benefits stopping and starting.

People will be able to claim Universal Credit online

Jobcentre Plus will let claimants know about any changes.

You can watch a video online to find out more about universal credit by visiting http://youtu.be/E7GUu7Xa7Nw?list=UUMHFuKuom9qJHLgXlYjc33Q

Alternatively people can visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit.