Welfare Reform is a major Government initiative that sets out to:

  • Provide opportunities to people who have previously been unable to find work
  • Ensure that people will be better off by working
  • Simplify the benefit system to make it easier for people to access the help they need, when they need it
  • Streamline the system, reduce administration costs, and minimise error or fraud.

A number of benefits are being rolled into one benefit called Universal Credit. It is payable to single people or jointly to couples. Couples will no longer be paid separately. These benefits are: Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance and Income Related Employement and Support Allowance (previously called Incapacity Benefit).

Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears into claimants bank accounts. The plan is that you manage your account online. The Government also plans to stop allowing you to collect the money in cash and will pay it only into a bank account. If you do not already have a bank account, you should take steps now to set one up, or set up an account with a Credit Union. You can also find out more information about bank accounts from price-comparison websites such as www.moneysavingexpert.com.

The new system aims to make payments from the benefits system more like the wages of people who are in work, which is why benefits will be paid monthly and you will be expected to budget for the whole month. 

Not everyone will move straight on to Universal Credit. However, from January 2015, new single applicants for benefits will be moved straight onto Universal Credit and everyone else will be moved over to it before 2017.

Claimants will also need to sign a “Claimant Commitment” - essentially a renaming of the current Jobseekers Agreement. This means that you must be available to work, actively seek work, and attend interviews at the DWP (Department for Work & Pensions).

What can you do?

By acting now you can take control of your future.  You can make the decisions on where you live, and other issues that will affect your family.  If your benefits are reduced but you don’t make any lifestyle changes and get into debt, some decisions may be taken out of your hands. If you owe rent as a result, you will risk losing your home.