Universal Credit coming to Northumberland next month

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The controversial and much-talked-about Universal Credit will be going live for new claimants in Northumberland from next month.

Universal Credit is replacing six other benefits with a single monthly payment for those who are out of work or on a low income.

But its introduction by the Government has been anything but smooth, with consistent criticism from opposition politicians, landlords, charities and the Church of England.

The aim of simplifying the benefits system was generally supported across the political spectrum, but its implementation, which has been delayed several times, has seen a number of issues.

Recently, it was reported that there had been a further delay in the major transfer of existing claimants to the new system, which will now not happen until November 2020.

But a spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council explained that this applies only to the ‘managed migration’ of existing claimants that was expected to roll out in late 2019.

The authority does not expect to have a confirmed time-scale for this until after next Monday (October 29) when the Government’s Budget Statement is released.

Therefore, the introduction of Universal Credit to new claimants across the county is still planned to be rolled out in two phases for Northumberland Jobcentre Plus sites:

From Wednesday, November 7 – Ashington, Berwick, Cramlington, Morpeth.

From Wednesday, December 12 – Alnwick, Bedlington, Blyth, Hexham.

Meanwhile, a concern that the delayed publication of the county’s electoral register, which will now be released on February 1, 2019, rather than December 1 this year, would affect knowing who was eligible for universal credit has been assuaged.

The spokeswoman explained that this will have no impact, as residents will only become eligible to claim Universal Credit if they previously would have made a claim for income support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, working tax credit, child tax credit or housing benefit.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service