Concern as Norwich gets ready for the roll-out of Universal Credit scheme
PUBLISHED: 13:02 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:12 02 October 2018
City Hall bosses say they are as prepared as possible for the roll-out of the controversial Universal Credit service in Norwich this month.
But they warn the changes could heap pressure on vulnerable people, at a time when household debt, homelessness and poverty in the city is increasing.
The government scheme sees a bundle of income-based benefits, including Jobseekers’ Allowance, tax credits and housing benefit - merged into one payment.
But the attempt to reform the benefits system has proved controversial.
Great Yarmouth was picked as a pilot area by the Department for Work Pensions, but there were problems with claimants going without income for weeks and landlords not receiving rent.
And Dan Mobbs, chief executive of the Mancroft Advice Project, has said he fears Universal Credit will increase homelessness, with more people “falling through the net”.
Norwich City Council recently spent £270,000 on a revamp of City Hall’s customer contact centre, where people seek help and support with benefits, while a team of advisers has been set up specifically to deal with Universal Credit work.
Karen Davis, cabinet member for social inclusion at the city council, said: “We believe that we are as prepared as we can be for the advent of the full Universal Credit service, but will continue to work with a range of stakeholders to evolve our approach.
“Notwithstanding this preparedness, we still have concerns about the impact of Universal Credit on particularly vulnerable residents in the context of the wider pressures of welfare reform.
“Research by Sheffield Hallam University in 2016 indicates that the financial loss per working age adult in Norwich due to welfare reforms by 2021 is £730, making a total loss in Norwich of £68m.
“This represents a major risk at a time where we are already seeing rising household debt, homelessness and poverty.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury recently criticised Universal Credit, saying it had left people worse off and caused “intense suffering”.
But the government says it replaces an “out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges”, which disincentivised work and could “trap” people in unemployment.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a monthly benefit payment which helps with living costs.
It replaces child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.
It is made up of a standard allowance and how much people get depends upon their earnings - reducing gradually as people earn more. For every £1 earned, payment is reduced by 63p.
The monthly standard allowance is £251.77 (single and under 25), £317.82 (single and 25 or over), £395.20 (for a couple if both under 25), £498,89 (for a couple if either are 25 or over).
There are extra amounts for eligible people with children and those with disabilities or health conditions.
People’s circumstances are assessed every month.
Visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit for more information.