Universal Credit to be introduced

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Universal Credit will be introduced in the Banbridge area from this Wednesday (June 27).

Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits with one and is for people of working age (18 - state pension age). It is initially for new claimants in the area. People in the Banbridge area already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019 at the earliest, unless their circumstances change. It has already been rolled out across a number of other areas of Northern Ireland.

David Sales, Universal Credit Programme Director, Department for Communities explained: “Universal Credit is a significant change to how benefits are claimed. In order to ensure claimants get the support they need, it is being introduced gradually across Northern Ireland from September 2017. This means we have been able to closely manage and learn from the rollout to date.”

As Universal Credit replaces claims for multiple benefits with a single claim, it is simpler to claim and more flexible. It aims to support people into work and to earn more without losing their benefits, while ensuring those who cannot work continue to receive the financial support they need. Claims are made online, with digital support available for those who may need it.

David Sales continued: “Our local staff have undertaken extensive training in preparation for Universal Credit. As it is claimed online, we have also upgraded the local Jobs and Benefits Office to provide digital zones with access to PCs and free wifi. Staff are available to guide new claimants through the process. So far, the vast majority of people have been able to make their online claim without needing additional assistance from our staff.”

Universal Credit replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based), Employment Support Allowance (income-related), Income Support, Housing Benefit (rental), Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credits for people aged over 18 and under State Pension age. Claimants of these existing benefits will transfer to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2023. Some claimants will naturally move to Universal Credit earlier, where their circumstances have changed.

Further information on Universal Credit and full details of the rollout are available on the nidirect website www.nidirect.gov.uk/universalcredit

The rollout will continue from September, reaching more areas of Belfast as well as Ballynahinch, Newtownabbey, Newtownards, Carrickfergus, Bangor, Lisburn, Larne, Cookstown, Ballymena and Antrim. It is scheduled to complete in December 2018.