Universal Credit will be rolled out in the Strabane area from Wednesday 17 January 2018.
Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits with one. It is for people aged 18 to State Pension age and aims to remove many of the barriers to work which exist in the current welfare system.
It is being introduced gradually across Northern Ireland in the period from September 2017 to September 2018, with Strabane and Lisnagelvin the latest areas in the rollout timetable. New claimants will be the first to claim Universal Credit. People in the Strabane area already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their circumstances changes.
The new payment will support claimants in being able to start and progress in work and earn more without losing their benefits, while ensuring those who cannot work continue to receive the financial support they need. It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as particular help for parents, who will be able to claim back up to 85% of their registered childcare costs each month.
Denis McMahon, Deputy Secretary of Work and Inclusion Group, DfC, explained: "The rollout of Universal Credit is another stage of the Department’s work to implement the NI Executive’s decisions on welfare changes. It is a significant change to the way the benefit system works in Northern Ireland, and we are using a phased rollout 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 manage several claims, they can claim the single benefit of Universal Credit online. This simplifies the process, with digital support available for those who need it. People can claim using a PC, tablet or mobile phone. The local Strabane Jobs & Benefits Office 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.”
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.
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 Jobs & Benefits Office. Further information on Universal Credit and full details of the roll out are available on nidirect.
Notes to editors:
- Universal Credit (UC) was introduced in Northern Ireland in September 2017 under the Welfare Reform (NI) Order 2015
- UC will be on a phased geographical basis by post code aligned to Jobs & Benefits Office locations. Postcodes in Strabane are aligned to the Strabane Jobs & Benefits Office. More information on the rollout timetable is available on nidirect
- Provisions will be made available for existing claimants affected by the introduction of Universal Credit when they move on to it
- There will also be flexibilities in relation to payments for Northern Ireland claimants, with twice monthly payments the default option. This will closely reflect the frequency of current benefit payments and is intended to offer assistance in managing household finances
- The rollout of Universal Credit is being supported by a comprehensive programme of communications. As well as an advertising campaign, claimants have been kept informed via posters and updates in local offices and information online. Information workshops have also been held for the advice sector, local representatives and other stakeholders. The advice sector have also been fully engaged with on the introduction of Universal Credit.
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