Any working age resident who needs to claim benefits will now have to make a claim for Universal Credit, unless they have three or more children or live in temporary or supported accommodation.
Cllr Tony Leech, Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing at West Devon Borough Council, said: “Universal Credit has been rolled out slowly for all new claimants over the last two years around the country, area by area.
‘From this week, unless you are a pensioner, have three or more children, live in temporary accommodation or live in supported accommodation, you will be applying for Universal Credit.”
Universal Credit replaces benefits such as Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA), Income-Related Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, with payments rolled up into one single monthly payment.
The government says “Universal Credit is simplifying the system to ensure that work always pays and more people are moving into work as a result. Personalised support is available and targeted at those that need it most.”
However, petitions have been running to abolish the scheme, with Jeremy Corbyn saying constituency MPs know the pain it is causing by creating hardship, and forcing people to use food banks.
One woman started an online petition to stop the plan, saying in her statement, “I am a single parent, and I am being left seven weeks without a single payment. Sometimes, I go without a gas top up on my meter just to see my daughter eat!!! Seeing our own on the streets, refusing help to our own who are suffering. We don’t want our children to grow up wondering why they can’t attend the next school trip, why some children can do dance classes, why some are lucky to get a snack after school… wondering why they can’t have breakfast one morning, and tea the next night.
We should NOT be living like this. They don’t help to get into work, once I was almost sanctioned just because I had a job interview and a job centre appointment on the same day! I obviously had to cancel my job interview, as I didn’t want to lose money for me and my daughter!”
A recent report after a study into the success of Universal Credit has revealed that almost two in five households in receipt of benefits would lose an average of £52 a week, affecting a million homeowners currently receiving tax credits, 750,000 households on disability benefit and 600,000 working single parents. Theresa May and Philip Hammond are now under pressure to commit millions into raising benefits in the upcoming budget to stop those already struggling from falling further into poverty.
Nikki Chaplin, Supervisor at Tavistock Citizens Advice says: “For some people it’s a big change because they are so used to getting their money weekly – with universal credit the money is paid monthly so we are able to provide budgeting support to people who are struggling with this.
We have also had a number of clients who still have an entitlement to contribution-based benefits, new-style jobseekers allowance and new-style employment support allowance, who have had difficulties making claims since Universal Credit started. We would urge anyone who is confused about their entitlement or who wants to know more about any benefits to visit their local Citizens Advice office for support.”