Universal Credit to begin in Newtownabbey

The scheme will be introduced on September 19.
The scheme will be introduced on September 19.

Universal Credit will be introduced in the Newtownabbey area from Wednesday, September 19.

It replaces six existing benefits with one and is for people of working age (18 - state pension age). It is initially for new claimants in the local area.

A statement issued by the Department for Communities said people in Newtownabbey already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected and do not need to make a claim for Universal Credit at this time, unless their circumstances change.

It added: “Existing claimants of these benefits who do not have a change in their circumstances will transfer to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2023.”

The controversial scheme has already been rolled out across a number of other areas of Northern Ireland.

David Sales, Universal Credit programme director, explained: “Universal Credit is a significant change to how benefits are claimed.

“In order to ensure claimants get the support they need, it is being introduced gradually across Northern Ireland from September 2017. This means we have been able to closely manage and learn from the rollout to date.”

As Universal Credit replaces claims for multiple benefits with a single claim, it is simpler to claim and more flexible.

It aims to support people into work and to earn more without losing their benefits, while ensuring those who cannot work continue to receive the financial support they need.

Claims are made online, with digital support available for those who may need it.

Mr Sales continued: “Our local staff have undertaken extensive training in preparation for Universal Credit. As it is claimed online, we have also upgraded local offices to provide a digital zone with access to PCs and free Wi-fi.

“Staff are available to guide new claimants through the process. So far, the vast majority of people have been able to make their online claim without needing additional assistance from our staff.”

Further information on Universal Credit and full details of the rollout are available on the nidirect website www.nidirect.gov.uk/universalcredit