Universal Credit is a new payment for working-age people who are out of work or on a low income that will replace these six existing benefits:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Housing benefit
- Child tax credits
- Working tax credits
This change is being rolled out in phases across Northern Ireland throughout 2017/2018. The new benefit is administered completely online which means everyone will need to apply for and manage their claim via an online system. This will be challenging to anyone lacking the basic digital skills and confidence to go online, and indeed will be a struggle for those who have no physical access to a computer or the Internet in their home.
Supporting Communities, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, is working with local Jobs and Benefits offices throughout Northern Ireland in the rollout of the new Universal Credit system to help people get online and understand the digital skills needed to work with the new system.
Look for us at the ‘Universal Credit Roadshows’ which are now being held in local Jobs and Benefits offices as the new system is phased in over the coming year. These roadshows aim to support claimants to navigate the new system, set up email addresses for the first time, use a search engine to seek employment, find CV templates online, and so on. Each Jobs and Benefits office is now equipped with ‘Digital Zones’ that have computers, internet access, and support staff on hand to help users.
Anyone looking for advice about changes to the welfare system, can call the Welfare Reform Advice Services Consortium for free on 0808 802 0020 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or visit your local Citizens Advice office or Advice NI independent advice centre.
For more information on universal credit, go to NI Direct.