New Universal Credit system rolled out in Ely and Wisbech as it replaces six benefits with one monthly payment
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People with disabilities, families, low earners and jobseekers in Wisbech and Ely can now claim under the new Universal Credit system.
The service, which has been widely condemned, aims to help claimants and their families become more independent by “simplifying the system” by bringing together a range of benefits into a single payment.
It replaces six benefits with one monthly payment and is already being claimed in Wisbech, Ely and Thetford by single jobseekers.
Anyone in Wisbech, Ely and Thetford who would previously have made a claim to income-based jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, working and child tax credit and housing benefit will now claim Universal Credit instead.
Families on Universal Credit who move into work can claim back up to 85 per cent of their eligible childcare costs, potentially boosting their finances by more than £13,000 a year.
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It comes as a £1.5bn package of improvements to make it easier for people to move onto Universal Credit was announced in the Budget.
However, earlier this year it was revealed a fifth of claimants are still receiving their first payment late, also finding that as well as the mandatory five-week waiting period before getting the first payment.
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Cambridge Councillor Lucy Nethsingha said: “I am particularly concerned about the impact of the five week waiting time, and the danger of families getting into rent arrears during that period.
“This is a major problem given the difficulty many families have in finding affordable housing in Cambridgeshire already.”
Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma, said that Universal Credit was central to the “commitment to help families improve their lives”.
He said: “We know its working – with Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.”
In Wisbech, Ely and Thetford single jobseekers are already receiving support from their work coach to find employment or increase their hours and earnings.
Stephen Lankester, local Jobcentre Plus, said: “Universal Credit offers tailored support, which includes more personalised help from a work coach. “The new system is also more flexible, which means people can take on short-term work to develop their skills and build up their experience.”