Universal Credit has merged six separate key means-tested benefits and tax credits into a single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income.
The existing benefits that will be replaced by Universal Credit are:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
The project, which is led by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, has been rife with setbacks and problems. A September 2013 National Audit Office report detailed major problems with the development of the IT system for Universal Credit, and the Major Projects Authority recently “reset” the project – a move which many say sends the scheme back to square one. Implementation has been delayed and only a few thousand people across the country are receiving the benefit.
There are other problems, too. If and when the project is ever rolled out, Universal Credit claimants will be paid their benefit directly. This will include their Housing Benefit. They will be responsible for paying rent to their landlords themselves – a “development” which welfare advisers fear could lead to an escalation in rent arrears.
Another problem is the client group’s lack of internet access. A recent National Housing Federation survey showed that 40% of affected tenants don't have access to the internet. This is a very big problem, given that applications for Universal Credit will have to be made online.
Back to square one for universal credit
Guardian article exploring the implications of Universal Credit being reclassified as “a new project”.
Fears Universal Credit will leave tenants struggling
National Housing Federation research showing that seven in 10 housing association tenants are not ready for the shift to an online benefits system.
The official government guide.
Universal Credit Day one. What we say.
Disability Rights UK welcomes a simplified benefits system but is very concerned that the introduction of universal credit will make families and disabled people worse off.
Universal Credit (National Housing Federation guide)
A good guide with an emphasis on the circumstances and needs of social tenants.