Universal Credit was initially rolled out in the Frome and Wells Job Centre areas (that cover Mendip) in March 2015.
Universal Credit is a new benefit designed to replace 6 existing benefits with a single monthly payment. It will only apply to you if you're making a new claim because you've recently become unemployed or are on a low income.
The conditionality for Universal Credit is much the same as Job Seekers Allowance so the customer will still sign up to a claimant commitment and attend interviews at the Job Centres.
Mendip District Council do not get involved in administering any housing benefit for any person in receipt of Universal Credit as Universal Credit picks up the eligible housing costs.
To 30 June 2016 there have been 388 Universal Credit claims - 140 paid by Frome Job Centre Plus; 248 by Wells JCP.
From 27 July 2016 Frome and Wells Jobcentre Plus are delivering the full Universal Credit service to all new claims from all* claimants, this will also include anyone who is currently on existing benefits or Tax Credits and has a change in circumstance that would naturally trigger a new claim. The government will be phasing out Tax Credits and replacing them with Universal Credit.
Instead of claiming one of the 6 legacy benefits; i.e. Job Seekers Allowance (Income based), Employment Support Allowance (Income Based), Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit, working age customers including couples and families, will claim Universal Credit.
People already on one of the legacy benefits will move over to Universal Credit if they have a change of circumstance that would normally see a move to another benefit. E.g. Someone on Employment Support Allowance becomes fit for work or vice versa.
The Department for Works and Pensions intend to move all existing legacy benefit claimants to Universal Credit by around 2019/20.
*The only time we will pay housing benefit for working age people will be if they are in supported/specified accommodation.
All pension age claimants will still claim housing benefit from the us (about half our caseload are pension age - so about 4,000 households).
Everyone will still need to claim council tax support from the council (about 8,000 households).
The two Job Centres in Mendip (Frome and Wells) are amongst the first nationally to roll out this service which commences from 27 July 2016. As such Department for Works and Pensions say that they are still very much in a "test and learn" situation.
It is important to emphasise that Universal Credit is a benefit paid and administered by the Department for Works and Pensions - not Mendip Council. It is important to note though that enquiries from Mendip residents about how to claim, how to report changes in circumstance or any queries about payment / entitlement have to be made to the Department for Works and Pensions or Job Centre Plus. Mendip Council do not hold Universal Credit records.
If you're contacting us to find out if you're eligible to claim other benefits, our staff will advise you if you need to apply for Universal Credit instead. You will need to apply for Universal credit online. If you don't have access to the internet you can visit your local Job Centre Plus or Citizens Advice in Shepton Mallet for help to complete online applications. If you are cannot use a computer or have trouble reading and or writing you can phone the Universal Credit Helpline by telephoning 0345 600 0723 or text phone 0345 6000 743.