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Universal Credit rolls out

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Universal Credit is finally upon Wigan claimants now. It is a new benefit aimed at single claimant jobseekers within the region.

Cast your minds back to 29th April when the Government initially proposed to roll-out Universal Credit across six North West regions and then proceeded to backtrack by limiting it only to Tameside.

Ian Duncan Smith has commented that “Today we’ve announced the next stage of delivery for universal credit, following the successful start of the early roll out in April….I’m determined to get this right and will not follow the old ways of governing – launching with a big bang and having to clear up the mess afterwards. I will bring in this radical reform safely.”

The plan is for Warrington and Oldham jobcentres to roll out Universal Credit claims from 29th July.  Lord Freud who is the Minister for Welfare Reform said “we are fixing the welfare system so it rewards people who want to work hard and is fair for the taxpayers who fund it. Universal Credit is being introduced in a slow, safe and controlled manner to ensure that we get this vital reform right…New jobseekers have successfully claimed universal credit online, the IT and support has worked as it should and we’re in a strong position for the next step in the roll out of universal credit in the pathfinder areas.”

The ultimate aim is to roll out Universal Credit across the nation from October 2013 but whether the IT system and support is actually available to all claimants is going to be interesting.

However, what the Government fails to identify is that 9 out of 10 claimants do not feel ready to deal with Universal Credit. I have recently read an article in the Guardian where people were asked to take part in a survey in relation to how they felt they would be able to cope with five clear problem areas; budgeting, monthly payments, banking, staying informed and most importantly internet access. The survey conducted by Citizens Advice found that:

92% felt unprepared for the new system

75% would be unable to manage their budgets on a monthly basis

67% would need help in getting set up online and managing the universal credit account

It appears the Government are failing to adequately consider the negative impacts to their ‘new revolutionary welfare system’ as with the other benefits that have been introduced like Bedroom Tax and Local Council Tax reduction scheme. The Bedroom Tax is affecting many thousand of claimants who are unable to cope with paying the shortfall in their rent.

There is clearly a breakdown in the system which is intended to ‘repair the welfare state’ and the Government must act urgently to address these problems before many more claimants suffer adversely.

By Ngaryan Li, Pro Bono Welfare solicitor