Communities Minister Paul Givan today announced plans for the roll out of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland.
Universal Credit will replace Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. The roll out will commence in September 2017 and is expected to be completed by September 2018.
Minister Givan said: “This is the biggest change to the benefit system for working age people in over 70 years. The new Universal Credit service will make it easier for people to move into employment whilst ensuring that people who cannot work can continue to receive the financial support they need.
“Universal Credit will remove many of the disincentives to work which exist in the current welfare system. With its focus on helping people participate more fully in the labour market, I believe it has the potential to become a significant economic driver for Northern Ireland.”
Turning to the implementation process, the Minister commented: “This roll out plan is challenging but achievable. Crucially, the Northern Ireland approach reflects some of the learning arising from implementation across the rest of the UK. As a result, in Northern Ireland the transition will be phased in across the JBO network. The first office to deliver Universal Credit will be Limavady followed by Magherafelt, Coleraine and Ballymoney before Christmas 2017. A new Service Centre to support the new Universal Credit offices will open in Foyle Jobs and Benefits Office at the same time, and it is also intended a second Service Centre will open in Newry in early 2018.
“My Department also continues to modernise how it delivers its services. As Universal Credit is introduced into different Jobs & Benefits Offices, people in those areas will make a single digital claim instead of having to make separate claims for the benefits which are being replaced. This represents a major step forward in the delivery of digital public services in Northern Ireland.”
In line with how all of the changes to the benefit system have been introduced, the Department will contact claimants whose benefits or credits are due to be replaced by Universal Credit in advance of any changes, to guide and assist them through the process. Arrangements will also be introduced for vulnerable claimants who are unable to use the digital service to assist them to make a claim or to report changes.
The following benefits will not be replaced by Universal Credit and will continue:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution- based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (Contribution- based)
- Child Benefit
- Pension Credit
- Carer’s Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
More information on Universal Credit and full details of the roll out are available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/