12 Jan Universal Credit Coming to Dundee
At the time of writing Universal Credit is to be rolled out in Dundee from February 2015. Universal Credit is basically a new way of paying benefits. It brings together several different benefits and combines them into one monthly payment which will be paid straight into a claimant’s bank account.
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit for people of working age. Part of the declared intent behind Universal Credit is to enable people to return to work although it is also open to people in work, sick or disabled, caring for children under the age of 1 or someone with a disability. Consequently in broad terms to claim Universal Credit a person will be expected to take action to find work. The person will have to agree to a ‘Claimant Commitment’ which identifies what they are going to do to find work or indeed a better job or earn more money, an Action Plan in effect. This plan should take into consideration aspects of a person’s life which could impact on their ability to work, for example their health or caring duties at home. There is also in-work conditionality. For further information on Universal Credit conditionality
Positively it encourages people to find employment by not restricting the hours you can work. The benefit paid will be reduced as the person earns more which means those people on a low income will not lose all their benefits at once.
Universal Credit will bring together: Housing Benefit; Jobseekers Allowance; Employment Support Allowance; Income Support; Working Tax Credit; and Child Tax Credit. It will therefore affect a significant number of people, not just those unemployed. For many the transition will be relatively straightforward but not for everyone.
People who are used to budgeting on a fortnightly payment will need to plan for a shift to four weekly payments. Anyone who has been or is on a low income will understand how difficult such a change can be. The payment will go directly into the person’s bank account and will include everything, in particular money for rent. It will be the individual’s responsibility to make the payment to the landlord. If people live together and claim as a couple then one monthly payment will be made. It follows then that having a good budgeting plan is important to ensure that essentials are paid for across the four week period until the next payment.
In addition people who are intending to use direct debits to pay bills will need to ensure that they manage the money in their accounts effectively otherwise they run the risk of not having enough money to pay the direct debits when they are due. If this happens they will be charged by the bank/building society which will just compound matters.
If anyone is in doubt about their budgeting skills help is available. Landlords should be able to provide assistance or be able to direct people to agencies that can help. Alternatively follow the link to a list of agencies in Dundee offering Benefit, Money and Debt Advice [Link].
There is no current information on how Universal Credit will be rolled out in Dundee. People who are already claiming benefits do not have to do anything. The DWP will contact them to advise when they will transfer over to Universal Credit. New claims will be done online. If help is required to make a claim the person can call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0845 600 0723 however this could be expensive as call rates for 0845 numbers are variable. Alternatively people can contact local money advice services for help, follow the link for a list of Dundee based agencies [Link]. People will also be expected to manage their claim online and will be able to check payments and updates through their online account.
This is itself not new as benefits have been increasingly delivered in this manner over recent times but it does emphasise the importance of being able to access the internet and have the necessary skills and confidence to utilise the available services.
We will post new information as it becomes available or further information can also be found on https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit