Universal Credit – Government adopts a slowly, slowly approach

Friday, 12 July 2013 - 1:18pm

The Government's ambitious plan for introducing Universal Credit continues to lose momentum.

Photograph: lydia_shiningbrightly (Flickr)

Since the Pathfinder launch in April, which was originally intended to include four pilot Jobcentre Plus areas but in reality turned out to mainly focus on just one, there has been some uncertainty about how the rollout of Universal Credit would materialise.

With the new scheme only recently making its way to the remaining three Pathfinder areas, the initial aim to have one million claimants joining Universal Credit by April 2014 had begun to look ambitious. Consequently, the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed this week that the rollout would indeed be much more gradual.   

"There is currently no information as to when the rest of country will follow, but the plan for one million claimants in April next year looks unlikely."

So what's new?

What does this mean, then, for the immediate future? Well, under current plans, Universal Credit will extend to the following six new Jobcentre Plus areas from October 2013:

  • Hammersmith
  • Rugby
  • Inverness
  • Harrogate
  • Bath
  • Shotton

This will bring the total number of areas covered by Universal Credit up to ten – significantly fewer than we had been led to believe. There is currently no information as to when the rest of country will follow, but the plan for one million claimants in April next year looks unlikely.

As with the Pathfinder, only claimants who are single, job seeking, not homeless, and who have no current benefit claim will be included in the roll-out, and will not include those in exempt accommodation. We're pressing for action to clear up the confusion around the out-dated definition of exempt accommodation and encourage homelessness organisations and local authorities to get in touch if they have any concerns around this.

Where next?

Another characteristic of Universal Credit is a much stricter set of conditions and requirements with which claimants will have to comply in order to receive benefits. All claimants, including joint claims (including those not expected to look for work) will be required to accept a claimant commitment as a condition of entitlement to Universal Credit.

Despite the slower than expected rollout of Universal Credit, a tougher sanctions regime for JSA and ESA claimants has already been in place since last October. Later in the year, we plan to publish the results of research on the impact of these changes.

You'll find a guide on claimant commitment under Tools for Accommodation Services on this page, along with a wide range of resources on Universal Credit and other benfit changes.

More details of the Government’s announcement can be found here.