Friday 28 November 2014

Universal Credit expands to include some people with children...

...but don't get too excited.

Until now, only claimants without without children were able to claim  Universal Credit (and even then not in all places in the UK). This is no longer the case.

From 24th November, some claimants with children will be able to claim Universal Credit.

However, this will only apply to people who claim in the some districts of Chester, the Wirral, and Warrington. The actual postcode areas included* are:

  • Chester: CH41, CH42, CH43, CH44, CH45, CH46, CH47, CH48, CH49, CH60, CH61, CH62 0 to CH62 9, and CH63.
  • Warrington: WA1 and WA2; WA3 4 to WA3 7; WA4 and WA5; WA13 0; WA13 9.

Even in these areas, not all claimants with children or young people will be able to claim  Universal Credit. The main exceptions are claimants who are responsible for any children or young people get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, or are registered blind, or partially sighted.

All the other restrictions on who will be transferred from the 'old' to the UC systems still apply**.

For example, new claims for Universal Credit can only be made by people who are looking for work; in other words, people who would otherwise be claiming Jobseeker's Allowance. So single parents of children under 5 will still not be included (they are able to claim Income Support); nor will claimants who have a limited capability for work (they will still be claiming Employment and Support Allowance).

Another key exclusion is that people currently in receipt of tax credits will not be included. In practice, as far as I can see, this means that anyone who have had children for a while won't be affected, as - almost certainly - they will be getting Child Tax Credit already.

Putting all this together (and there are quite a few other restrictions I haven't touched on) the only people who will be moving onto the Universal Credit as a result of this new change are parents who have just had their first child, where one of the parents is just about to start looking for work. Who live in Chester, the Wirral, or Chester.

Having said all that, once a claimant is in the Universal Credit system they stay in the Universal Credit system, whatever their changes in circumstances.

In other Universal Credit news, the National Audit Office has published another critical report. The Independent notes that the NAO declined to agree with Iain Duncan Smith's assertion that the Universal Credit project is providing value for money.

"The National Audit Office has concluded that it is too early to determine if the Department for Work & Pensions will achieve value for money in its implementation of the Universal Credit programme.

The Department set out to transform the benefits system with Universal Credit and suffered early setbacks. Since the reset in early 2013, it has reduced the delivery risks by significantly extending its timetable for introducing Universal Credit and choosing a more expensive twin-track approach: the roll-out of its ‘live service’ (which uses pre-2013 IT assets), while at the same time developing its new ‘digital service’.

The DWP believes the additional costs of this approach are justified because it expects Universal Credit to achieve substantial benefits for society sooner and more safely. However, such potential benefits do not mean Universal Credit will be value for money regardless of how it is implemented and the cost of doing so."

The Independent also notes that the project "will not now be fully implemented by the end of 2019". As of a year ago, Duncan Smith was still insisting that the everything would be complete by 2017 (see, for example, my post from about a year ago:

In the meantime, I'll continue to do my best to keep you informed of progress.

*I've extracted this information (with some difficulty) from the following sources:
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 9, 11, 13 14, 16, 17 and 19 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions (Amendment)) Order 2014
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 17 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions) Order 2014
(Goodness me: if nothing else Universal Credit is providing plenty of employment for drafters of legislation. Universal Credit  has created an astonishing cobweb of legislative instruments.)

**For full details of these see