Universal Credit will be introduced in the Shaftesbury Square area of Belfast from Wednesday 03 October 2018 and in the Knockbreda area of Belfast from Wednesday 17 October 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 these areas. People in these areas already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019 at the earliest, unless their circumstances change.
Universal Credit will also begin in Carrickfergus on 03 October. It has already been rolled out across a number of other areas of Northern Ireland.
David Sales, Department for Communities, 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 the local Jobs and Benefits Offices to provide digital zones with access to PCs and free Wi-Fi. 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.
Notes to editors:
- 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.
- UC will be rolled out on a phased geographical basis by post code aligned to Jobs & Benefits Office locations. Postcodes in the Shaftesbury Square area are aligned to the Shaftesbury Square Jobs & Benefits Office. Postcodes in the Knockbreda area are aligned to the Knockbreda 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. The Independent Welfare Changes Helpline, which has been funded by the Department to provide independent help and advice on Universal Credit and any of the other welfare changes, is 0808 802 0020.
- 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.
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