Universal Credit to begin in Downpatrick area

Date published: 02 May 2018

Universal Credit will be introduced in the Downpatrick area from Wednesday 16 May 2018.

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 local area.  People in the Downpatrick area already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their circumstances changes.

Universal Credit will also begin in Newry from the same date.  It has already been rolled out across a number of other areas of Northern Ireland.

David Sales, Universal Credit Programme Director, 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 local offices to provide a digital zone 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.

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.

Further information on Universal Credit and full details of the rollout are available on the nidirect website. 

Notes to editors: 

  1. Universal Credit (UC) was introduced in Northern Ireland in September 2017 under the Welfare Reform (NI) Order 2015, in line with the NI Executive’s decisions on welfare changes.
  2. To date, Universal Credit is operational in the Limavady, Ballymoney, Magherafelt, Coleraine, Strabane, Lisnagelvin, Foyle, Armagh, Omagh, Enniskillen, Dungannon and Portadown.
  3. UC will be rolled out on a phased geographical basis by post code aligned to Jobs & Benefits Office locations. Postcodes in Downpatrick are aligned to the Downpatrick Jobs & Benefits Office. More information on the rollout timetable is available on nidirect   
  4. Provisions will be made available for existing claimants affected by the introduction of Universal Credit when they move on to it. 

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