Fears for Luton people on benefits as Universal Credit system rolls out next week

Job Centre window with a sign telling people to apply for Universal Credit on-line PPP-180614-112245001
Job Centre window with a sign telling people to apply for Universal Credit on-line PPP-180614-112245001

There are fears a significant number of Luton people on benefits could be considerably worse off as the rollout of Universal Credit hits the town next week.

Luton Council is warning people they need to act now to see how they will be affected.

Cllr Andy Malcolm, portfolio holder for finance, said: “I have been impressed by the level of time and preparation staff at the council and our partners have invested on behalf of residents in order to be able to help them from 24 October onwards.

“Universal Credit has been in the news a great deal recently with politicians from all backgrounds expressing their concerns over the manner of its introduction. As with any major change in welfare there are always winners and losers. However our research suggests that a significant number of people in the town already on benefits will be considerably worse off. This is why it is so important that those impacted take up the support outlined above and available at the Job Centre.”

The council is advising people to act now to make sure they are prepared and understand how they will be affected if they currently receive, or expect to receive, certain government benefits. These benefits include:

housing benefit

child tax credit

income support

income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)

income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)

working tax credit

From 24 October residents in postcodes LU1 and LU2 who currently receive at least one of the benefits above may be affected by the introduction of Universal Credit (UC). Although a small number of individuals have been on what is called a ‘live service’ this will now be rolled out to ‘full service’, which will also include families.

The council and its partners have spent a great deal of time in preparation and have put in place a number of measures to help those who are worried about the change.

If you have been receiving any of the benefits listed, or have concerns and are unsure whether you will be affected by UC, go to www.luton.gov.uk/lutonaccess and you will find all the help you need.

There are several key features of UC which claimants will need to be ready for. They will need to:

>prove who they are by producing certain documents

>have a bank account

>show how much rent they pay

>apply online

>talk to their landlord, agent or housing officer to show you are ready for UC so they understand they will get paid on time

Luton Access, which includes the council and a number of information, advice and guidance partners across the town, has drawn on the experience of other regions across the country where UC is already operating. In addition it has been in continual contact with advisers working for central government and the local Job Centre Plus.

Trained staff will be located at Job Centre Plus in Luton to provide support for people affected by these changes. As well as this, council housing officers and staff serving at various reception centres around the town have been specifically trained in readiness for this significant change in the benefit system.

Useful advice on all aspects of UC can be found at www.luton.gov.uk/lutonaccess and www.gov.uk/uc.

Post codes LU3 and LU4 will switch to UC on 21 November 2018.