CAMBRIDGE City Council is encouraging people claiming benefits to prepare for major changes being introduced in Cambridge from next week.
From 17 October, Universal Credit will replace a number of existing benefits and tax credits for households in the city making new claims. A relatively small number of people in Cambridge will be affected by the change to begin with.
Claims for Universal Credit will have to be made online via the Government’s website at www.gov.uk/universal-credit, and will mean a single monthly payment is paid directly into a claimant’s bank account.
Universal Credit will replace all new claims for the following existing benefits:
- Jobseeker’s allowance
- Employment and support allowance
- Child and working tax credits
- Housing benefit
- Income support
In addition, from 17 October some changes in people's circumstances will see them move on to Universal Credit.
There are three key steps that the council is encouraging people to take in order to get ready for the introduction of Universal Credit:
- Get a bank account – People will need a bank, building society or credit union account the monthly payment can be paid into;
- Get online – People need internet access and an email address to make and manage their claim. Computers are available for customers at points around the city if people do not have their own devices with which to make a claim, including at the council’s Customer Service Centre, Mandela House,
4 Regent Street during opening hours. More information on how to claim can be found at www.gov.uk/universal-credit;
- Get budgeting – The monthly payment includes any help people receive towards paying their housing costs. Budgeting advice can be arranged through the council’s partnership with Cambridge Citizens Advice or found on the council’s website at www.cambridge.gov.uk/advice-about-debt-and-managing-your-money.
Universal Credit claims are managed by the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and support for claimants who struggle to either manage a monthly budget, or to make and manage an online claim will be referred by Jobcentre work coaches to Citizens Advice, where help will be provided.
The council has worked closely with partners at Jobcentre in Cambridge and Citizens Advice Cambridge to provide support to help people prepare for and cope with the changes ahead.
Councillor Richard Robertson, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “Universal Credit is a very different system to how people have previously received benefits or tax credits, but we would encourage them to remember the three key points – get a bank account, get online and get budgeting.
“We would like to reassure people that there is plenty of support available in Cambridge for anyone who has difficulty managing their monthly payment or making a claim online, and I would encourage people to seek support if they are having any problems during the introductory period.”
“There have been some serious delays in payments of benefits in other parts of the country, which are ahead of Cambridge in the implementation of Universal Credit.
“This has been seen to lead to cases of rent arrears rising dramatically, and in some cases people have lost their home as a result. We have taken care to learn from others how to support the assessment and payment of Universal Credit being carried out as speedily as possible ready for the roll out in Cambridge.
“There are two key ways we are doing this. Firstly by funding Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau to have an advice worker in the DWP offices at Henry Giles House available to help with claims. Secondly by allocating council officers (in conjunction with South Cambridgeshire District Council) to work with DWP staff, to explain the complications surrounding benefit claims where rents and landlords are involved – something DWP staff are not used to.
“For many people Universal Credit will mean a reduction in financial assistance from benefits and is the imposition of austerity on them. However we hope these two initiatives will enable claimants to be paid the full sums they are still entitled to and without delays.”