The controversial Universal Credit – which combines several benefits into one – has been fully introduced in Caerphilly County Borough.
Despite assurances from the UK Government that people will get their initial payment on time, Caerphilly MP Wayne David said he still has concerns about the scheme.
From today, Wednesday, September 5, Universal Credit replaces six benefits with one monthly payment. It was already being claimed in Caerphilly by single jobseekers, but has been expanded to include people who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income support, Working and Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.
The system has come in for heavy criticism after claimants in other parts of the country faced weeks without money. The UK Government said it had made changes to the system so that people can have a 100% advance on their first payment and that the seven-day waiting period for new claimants has been removed.
However Caerphilly’s Labour Member of Parliament Wayne David said he still had several concerns – including possible delays in initial payments and access to the online application process for the benefit.
He said: “I’m concerned about the length of time for initial payments and there still may be delays for weeks and possibly months. I’m also concerned about a greater use of foodbanks. I just hope that foodbanks in the area are able to cope with a possible increase in demand.
“The third concern I have is about the nature of the application process for Universal Credit, in that most of it is done online. I know that Caerphilly County Borough Council has invested a great deal of resources in helping people make applications online, but digital exclusion is a real problem many parts of the county borough and people may not apply, and therefore receive, the benefits they are entitled to.”
Minister for Employment Alok Sharma said: “Universal Credit is central to our commitment to help families improve their lives by moving into work. We know it’s working – with Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
“And now we are rolling it out to a wider range of people in a safe and controlled way. From today, more people in Caerphilly, Bargoed and Blackwood including families and disabled people, can claim Universal Credit and access the extra help it provides.”