Universal Credit set to be rolled out in our area
UNIVERSAL Credit is being introduced across Bristol for most working-age households who need to make a new claim for benefit.
After being introduced in South Bristol Jobcentre Plus areas earlier this year, the scheme is being rolled out to the remaining parts of the city in September and October. It replaces the six means-tested benefits and tax credits (including Housing Benefit) and is claimed from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
If you are already getting benefits then you will not be immediately affected unless you have a significant change in your circumstances. If this occurs and you need to make a claim for any of the benefits that Universal Credit replaces, you’ll need to make a claim for Universal Credit instead.
If residents are eligible for Universal Credit, it will be paid directly into your bank, building society or credit union account on a monthly basis and normally includes help with your rent. However, it usually takes five to six weeks before the first payment is made, and although residents can get an advance against their first payment, this will be repaid through their next 12 monthly payments.
There are concerns about residents being able to manage during this time. Asking a question of the Mayor, Bishopston Councillor Eleanor Combley said: “Households that move onto receiving Universal Credit will have a minimum six week delay (though many have reported more) before receiving any income after claiming, meaning that many people are likely to fall into rent arrears, fuel and food poverty.
“Will the Mayor publicly give the council’s commitment not to evict council tenants who fall into rent arrears when they are moved onto Universal Credit and call on all landlords in Bristol to follow the council’s example in making a similar commitment to their tenants, so that no tenant in Bristol needs to fear eviction because of a move onto Universal Credit?”
In response, Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Local government is facing the challenge not only of austerity, but of working with reduced finances to tackle problems created by bad national policy which hurt our people. Universal Credit and its anticipated impact on debt and homelessness is an example of that.
“We are working closely with council tenants as they transition to Universal Credit and our ethos firmly remains around sustaining tenancies wherever possible in an effort to keep families and vulnerable people in their homes.
“We have implemented a triage programme so we can tailor support and advice accordingly, and we will continue to work alongside partners and support agencies across the City to minimise the impact of Welfare Reform.
"We’ve also taken a lead in protecting people in the private letting sector with the ethical letting charter and the landlord licensing scheme.”
In advance of Universal Credit being rolled out, readers are advised to get advice and support if they need it. If you need help making an online application, getting budgeting support or are worried about paying your rent, Bristol City Council can help, see www.bristol.gov.uk/universalcredit. You can also pop into the Citizen Service Point at 100 Temple Street or speak to your DWP work coach. Your landlord may also be able to help if you are a council or Housing Association tenant.