‘Significant change’ for dole claimants

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A top official at the Department for Communities has acknowledged that the launch of the controversial new Universal Credit (UC) benefits system in Limavady in a week’s time represents a ‘significant change’ for dole claimants.

However, Dr. Denis McMahon, Deputy Secretary of DfC’s Work and Inclusion Group, said a broad range of supports will be made available to local UC recipients.

The new catch-all benefit is being introduced on a phased basis across the North from next Wednesday, September 27, when Limavady becomes the first area to go live.

New claimants from the Limavady area will be the first to claim UC.

People already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their entitlement changes.

“The introduction of Universal Credit is another stage of the Department’s work to implement the NI Executive’s decisions on welfare changes,” said Dr. McMahon.

“It is a significant change to the way the benefit system works in Northern Ireland, and our phased approach aims to give the best possible support to claimants as they get used to the new system.”

Explaining how the new system will work, Dr McMahon explained: “Instead of individuals having to fill in multiple forms and managing several claims, they will claim the single benefit of UC online.

“This will simplify the claims process, with digital support available for those who need it.

“They will be able to claim using a PC, tablet or mobile phone. As it rolls out in areas, local offices will have a Digital Zone with PCs and free Wifi which claimants can use to access their online account, with staff available to provide help and support.”

UC 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.

Existing claimants will transfer to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022.

Some claimants will naturally move to Universal Credit earlier, where their circumstances have changed.

As Universal Credit is rolled out claimants can discuss their personal circumstances by calling into their local Job & Benefits Office.

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