Universal Credit: Timeline for switching existing claimants 'unchanged', says DWP
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government, Universal Credit
Mind the welfare cap – housing benefit in a 'universal credit system'
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says the timeline for bringing existing benefit claimants on to Universal Credit “remains unchanged”, following rumours of delays in the national press.
Universal Credit will replace six-income-related benefits - including housing benefit - when it comes in from 2013, with the schedule for switching existing claimants being rolled out between 2014 to around the end of 2015.
The programme – which will see claimants paid a single monthly payment – has been dogged by rumours of delays, forced personnel changes and uncertainty around whether the IT system can handle the caseload.
Reports in the Financial Times this morning suggest that there is growing confidence in Whitehall that the October 2013 deadline for the opening phase of moving new claimants on to the system will be met.
However, it suggests senior government advisers believe it may be necessary to delay the start of the second phase due in April 2014.
However, a DWP spokesman said the schedule was on track.
He said: "The timeline for bringing existing benefit claimants onto Universal Credit remains unchanged and we will roll out a pathfinder of the new benefit in April next year."
The pathfinder will see the full end-to-end programme of Universal Credit rolled out across Greater Manchester and Cheshire in the run up to the national launch.
The early roll-out is expected to see up to 1,500 new Universal Credit claimants coming on stream across four areas – Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington - each month.
Managing the build-up of claims to Universal Credit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions:
Phase 1 – October 2013 to April 2014
- Universal Credit will launch in October 2013 and all new claims to the current benefits and credits will be phased out by April 2014, with new claims to housing benefits and tax credits being the last to end in April 2014.
- 'Natural changes' - when someone undergoes a change of circumstances - will be accepted from October 2013 and will continue whilst claimants are on the old benefits and undergo a change in circumstances.
Phase 2 – April 2014 to around end 2015
Existing claimants, whose circumstances haven’t changed, will start to be transferred to Universal Credit through managed change, currently planned to start from April 2014. The Government expects that, as most of those households who are actively seeking work will moved through the new claims or natural changes route by April 2014, the type of households that will fall in to this phase will generally be households with people in part-time work and households that are economically "inactive". Where possible, the Government says priority will be given to those households whose work behaviour "is most likely to benefit from Universal Credit".
Phase 3 – End 2015 to end 2017
- The Government says that from around the end of 2015 the remaining households will be moved by taking into account local circumstances, such as staffing turnover, contractual obligations and demography, so that households are moved on to Universal Credit in good time before housing benefit loads become too small to be viable. Within those parameters the focus on work and poverty will be retained.
- This, says the Government, should allow local authorities to plan with more certainty over the medium term.
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