National roll-out of Universal Credit reaches Morpeth
From Monday, Universal Credit will become available for those using the Jobcentre Plus facility in Morpeth.
It is designed to replace six existing benefits with one monthly payment and for the first time, in and out of work benefits are combined.
The new system shifts focus away from the number of hours a person works to the amount they earn, removing the need to switch between benefits when working more than 16 hours a week.
With access to HMRC’s real time earnings data, payments can now be calculated exactly and adjusted automatically to eliminate overpayments and ensure people receive the correct level of support both in and out of work.
The Government says Universal Credit simplifies the welfare system, incentivises jobseekers and helps people to be better off in work.
There has been criticism of the programme. For example, the independent Resolution Foundation think tank said second earners in a family have very weak incentives to either enter work or increase their hours.
It has already been rolled out in Newcastle and regional employer relationship manager for Jobcentre Plus, Steve McCall, said it has helped staff to support claimants.
He added: “The new system is better from a claimant’s point of view and it is also good for employers.
“It allows people to be more flexible in the work that they take on and everything is done in real time, which means changes are applied quicker than before.
“With the Jobseeker’s Allowance system, the 16-hour rule means that a new benefit would be needed and there can be time delays in setting up the new one.
“Under Universal Credit, people are steered towards making online claims, but there is still a requirement to go to a job centre and have a conversation with a work coach so a claimant commitment can be put together.
“Replacing six existing benefits with one monthly payment is also helping our staff as the more efficient system is allowing them to concentrate on helping people to find work.
“Staff from the centre in Morpeth have been to Newcastle to hear how it has been rolled out and they know exactly what is required when it comes into operation.”