Universal Credit starts in West Berkshire next week
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are continuing their roll out of Universal Credit across the UK.
It will start to be introduced in most of the West Berkshire area on 6 December (with the rest of the district coming on stream in January).
Universal Credit is a monthly payment that replaces six current benefits, namely:
Child Tax Credit
income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Working Tax Credit
West Berkshire Council administers Housing Benefit claims (the DWP administers the other five benefits), but existing claimants do not need to do anything unless they are contacted by the DWP, or have a relevant change in their circumstances. The council will be assisting the DWP in supporting the transition to the new arrangements.
The council currently handles over 7,000 housing benefit claims, and processes around 1,300 new claims, per year. Claimants transitioning from Housing Benefit (usually being the most vulnerable) will receive a two week transition payment, worth on average £233 per claimant. This will be unrecoverable, automatic and received early in the first assessment period.
Further, in the Budget, the Government announced that, from February, the initial payment of Universal Credit should be made after five weeks, by reducing the initial seven 'waiting days'. More importantly, from January, new Universal Claimants will be offered an advance of up to 100%. In practice this means that new claimants in December can already receive an advance of up to 50% of their overall entitlement, and may receive a second advance to take it up to 100% in the New Year. All payments of advances will now be recoverable over 12 months (rather than the original six months).
Anthony Chadley, West Berkshire's Executive Member for Finance said: "We're gearing up to offer support to all of our claimants, and welcome the positive changes the Government has made. Combining these six benefits into one Universal Credit payment ensures people are better off in work by gradually reducing the benefit payments as earnings increase, unlike the old system where benefits would stop all at once."