Government data released on 17th September 2014 shows that more than 11,000 households were claiming Universal Credit during August of this year.
This is a considerable increase on July, when 7,460 households were claiming and June, when 6,630 were claiming. As anticipated, the rate at which the programme is rolling out is accelerating.
39 job centres were processing claims for Universal Credit by mid-August and all are now accepting claims from couples, as well as single people. It is anticipated that roll-out to families will follow later this year, though dates for expansion have not been announced, yet.
Between April 2013 and August 2014, 13,260 started to claim Universal Credit; as one of the selling points of Universal Credit was that it would encourage people into work, how successful has this been? In fact, over 2,000 had moved off benefit before 14th August 2014. It is difficult to gauge how successful this is, without looking at comparable figures for a similar period before Universal Credit, it would appear that even in the very early stages, it seems to indicate that for some, at least, it has worked.
A DWP spokesman has said that by the end of 2014, “around one in eight job centres in Britain will be offering Universal Credit” and by the time Universal Credit is fully implemented, eight million people will receive their benefits by Universal Credit.
So far, results are being seen as positive, despite the arrears that social landlords now find they are struggling with. However, claims so far have been “clean” claims, the single homeless who would not, generally have multiple benefits. As it implementation progresses, the claims will become more complex. Be prepared – you may think it can’t happen yet, but you need to be ready for it. Make sure your tenants have bank accounts, tell them you understand the difficulties when their claims transfer and payment is made monthly in arrears; if your tenants have had difficulties in payment of the rent, make sure you ask them to apply for direct payments to you. Ignoring it and hoping it won’t happen won’t help; being prepared and ready for it, will.
By Sharon Betton