Headlines: May 2nd, 2012

Councils have been invited to run pilot projects to explore the issues of delivering Universal Credit which will replace the current benefit and tax credit systems.

From October 2013, tax credits and benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Income Support will start to be merged into a single Universal Credit payment. This means people will receive a single payment each month which will help ensure they will be better off in work than on benefits.

Universal Credit is a radical reform and will involve 12 million tax credit and benefit claims being transformed into eight million Universal Credit payments.

The pilots will focus on delivering the face-to-face support people may need to make claims for Universal Credit, providing help to get online and encouraging financial independence. Councils will work with DWP, Jobcentre Plus and community groups to support residents during the transition to Universal Credit and to act as examples of best practice to other councils.

Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said: “It is vital that local people are fully supported when these benefit and tax credit changes come into place. Councils have a central role to play in providing face-to-face assistance and advice in the new welfare system, as they have a strong understanding of local job markets and the needs of their residents.”

He added: “Ensuring that the pilots are run smoothly, with any lessons learnt, will play an important role in working towards a smoother rollout later next year.”