Universal credit is a new means-tested benefit for people of working age with a low income, which will be organised online via job centres.
The new benefit will combine a number of working age benefits into one. These include: income based jobseeker’s allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.
All payments will be made once a month and will go directly into the recipient’s bank account.
All claim applications will have to be done online, and claimants will have to visit a local library, jobcentre or council if they do not have internet access. (BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11735673)
There are four work related requirements for anyone seeking to apply for Universal Credit.
(Disability Rights UK: http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/universal-credit-uc)
Advantages and disadvantages for disabled people
(Citizens Advice Bureau: http://bit.ly/1wknkfA)
The scheme was launched in part in April 2013 and is now being launched more fully across the UK. It should be offered in some way across Britain by the end of 2016 with the scheme being fully available by the end of 2017. See here for a full timetable: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/universal-credit-start-dates)
The government and the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, have said that the structural changes are intended to ‘make work pay’ and to simplify the benefit system. The new system is also meant to give people a closer experience of receiving a wage and improve personal money management.
Duncan Smith has said that universal credit is £600m under budget having faced earlier claims that it was far over budget.
However universal credit has also been criticised. The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said it would take more than 1,500 years to roll out universal credit to all claimants if the current rate was maintained. ‘Iain Duncan Smith promised one million people would be claiming Universal Credit by April 2014. But the latest figures show only 26,940 people on the new benefit. At this rate it will take 1,571 years to roll out Universal Credit.’ (The Independent: http://ind.pn/1BNmeug)
Many have also criticised the scheme for going over budget and not being delivered on time.
Aside from the delivery, people are also wary that the ‘broad brush’ approach may leave less for people with more complex needs. In addition, by centring universal credit online there is a criticism that it marginalises those who may not have internet access or those whose IT skills are less developed, such as some disabled people and some elderly people.