Universal Credit roll-out delayed in Nottingham until October

This post first appeared on Nottingham Post. Read the original article.

The roll-out of Universal Credit in Nottingham has been put back until October after concerns were raised about its implementation.

It comes after the Government, which is facing strong criticism over the scheme, agreed to slow down the roll-out of the controversial scheme, shifting back the dates at which it would be rolled out at different job centres.

Now, Nottingham City Council’s deputy leader has said he wants the Government to pause the whole programme until problems with it are ironed out.

Only a small number of benefit claimants in Nottingham have so far been placed on the Universal Credit arrangements, with the expectation that tens of thousands more in Nottingham would be added to the system early next year.

However from New Year’s Day, there will be no new Nottingham claimants placed on Universal Credit for another 10 months, with people directed to continue to claim the relevant existing benefit such as Jobseekers Allowance.

People who use the Nottingham Central, Nottingham Loxley House, and Bulwell Job Centre will now be moved to Universal Credit in October. People who use Beeston job centre will be switched in November.

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Labour councillor Graham Chapman, who represents the Aspley ward, said he was pleased the Government has paused Universal Credit’s implementation in the city – but thinks the whole programme should be put on hold to re-think how it is delivered and remove negative impacts it is having on claimants.

He said: “People are often waiting six weeks or more for their first payment to come through, during which time they get into rent arrears and other debts from which they struggle to recover.

“The Chancellor announced a reduction in the waiting time to five weeks in his recent Budget – but this isn’t good enough.

“The pause in Nottingham is welcome but roll-out of Universal Credit should be put on hold altogether until it can be delivered without punishing people who are already in financial difficulties and many of whom are already in severe debt”

Universal Credit replaces six existing means-tested benefits: Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; Housing Benefit; Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Job Seeker’s Allowance; and Income Support.

It is paid monthly, rather than weekly, but many have reported concern over how long it takes to receive the first payment.

Conservative Secretary of State David Gauke, who is responsible for implementing the roll-out, said: “To deliver this package, we have carefully revised the UC roll-out plan to ensure that we continue to safely and gradually roll out this important welfare reform.

“This does not change the final point at which the roll-out of universal credit will be completed [2022].”