Almost 9,000 people in Northumberland are claiming Universal Credit
Almost 9,000 people in Northumberland are now receiving the controversial new benefit Universal Credit.
Universal Credit, which is now available in every Jobcentre across the UK, replaces six previous benefits – income support; income-based jobseeker's allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; housing benefit; child tax credit and working tax credit with a single monthly payment.
The Government says it simplifies the benefit system and makes it easier for claimants to be sure they are getting everything they are entitled to.
It has been the subject of criticism from the outset, however, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends and administrative problems, as well as claimants struggling to get by until their first payment arrives.
New figures show it is being paid to 8,941 claimants in Northumberland and almost 137,000 people across the North East.
Nationwide more than a third of Universal Credit claimants are in work.
With the benefit now available in all jobcentres, the number of people on Universal Credit will continue to rise naturally, and does not necessarily signify an increase in unemployment for the area.
Will Quince, Minister for Welfare Delivery, said: “Universal Credit is a force for good, delivering personalised support right across the North East and helping people find work.
“This week the employment rate reached a joint-record high and the jobs market continues to go from strength to strength. I have no doubt that this is due in part to our fantastic jobcentre staff, who work tirelessly to help people build their skills and find jobs.
“For people who want to find work, there’s a wide range of help available in jobcentres, including training courses, CV writing sessions and jobs fairs.”
Universal Credit provides tailored support for people who are unemployed, in low-paid work or unable to work due to a disability or health condition.
Anyone who thinks they may be eligible for Universal Credit can check online.
People can also speak to Citizens Advice, who offer a free Help To Claim service for Universal Credit, funded by the department.