The city's leading councillor for equalities has concerns over the introduction of universal credit in Brighton and Hove, and said support services are in place to minimise the impact on residents.
This comes as reports from areas where the new benefit has been introduced said some claimants were in rent arrears because of later payments.
The phased rollout in Brighton and Hove is planned to begin tomorrow (October 4) for BN3 postcodes, November 29 for BN2 and mid-January 2018 for BN41 and BN1 areas. This will be for people making new claims and for claimants whose circumstances change. The introduction coincides with around 100 other areas throughout the UK.
It is expected that other people who are already on benefits, and who do not have a change of circumstances, will be subject transfer over to Universal Credit between 2019 and 2022. The Jobcentre will write to claimants to tell them when they will need to make a claim for Universal Credit.
Cllr Emma Daniel, chair of the neighbourhoods, inclusion, communities and equalities committee, said: “The introduction of Universal Credit is a big change and we do have concerns about levels of support around the claim process and the delays in payments.
“We’ve done a lot of work around the likely impacts of the change in the city and worked with our community and voluntary sector partners to make sure the support services are in place to help people as much as possible. However, the move away from housing benefit and council budget reductions does limit our ability to help people financially.
“The Jobcentre will tell you if you need to apply for Universal Credit. We strongly advise people to respond to all correspondence with the Jobcentre and the department of Work and Pensions and stay on top of their claim. We also advise people to get help and support early if they’re worried about money or making claims online.”
Around 20,000 households will be affected by Universal Credit in Brighton & Hove over the next few years.
Universal Credit combines six existing benefits: Housing Benefit, Working and Child Tax Credits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support.
The main changes for claimants will be:
- Universal Credit will be claimed and managed online
- No benefit is paid for first seven days for most claimants
- Payment will be paid monthly in arrears by default
- Payment will default to a single member of the household
- First payment is usually made six weeks (or longer) from the initial claim
- The rent element will be paid to the claimant by default, rather than the landlord
Although existing claims for help with rent will continue to be handled by the council, new claims will not, meaning a gradually reducing role for the council in providing financial welfare support for residents.
Brighton and Hove City Council said there has been a lot of work in the local authority to prepare for the changes and help minimise the impact on residents, including commissioning advice and support services to help with budgeting and money issues, and help to get online.
The council has also produced a quick guide outlining possible solutions to likely issues claimants will face.
For more information about Universal Credit, visit: www.gov.uk/universalcredit
For information on support and advice in Brighton and Hove, visit: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/universal-credit