Universal Credit Updates Announced

Nelson McCausland has updated the Assembly on the new Universal Credit system.

Following discussions with Lord Freud, Conservative Minister for Welfare Reform, Social Development Minister McCausland has confirmed changes will be made to the new system.

The housing element of Universal Credit is to be paid directly to landlords, and the payment will now be able to be split between two parties in the household.

It will also be payable twice each month.

Universal Credit will bring together and replace various benefits in Northern Ireland like Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance will be put into effect from April 2014.

The Minister said: "I recognise that in Northern Ireland we do have unique circumstances and for many months I have been in negotiations with Lord Freud on alternative payment arrangements for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland."

He added that the direct payment to landlords is "an important change as it will help to avoid rent arrears, with all the implications that can have for claimants and their families."

Commenting on the April 2014 introduction, the Minister said it was "to allow for the development of the necessary IT to support these alternative payment arrangements and for the necessary guidance and procedures to be put in place.

"This timing has the added advantage that issues raised and lessons learned across other parts of the UK in the early stages of the roll-out can be reflected into local implementation planning and delivery."

Regarding Housing Benefit reform, Minister McCausland said he would be hosting an event in November, attended by Lord Freud, with key interested parties.

"I believe this will afford the opportunity to develop measures specific to Northern Ireland that may help soften the impact of the Housing Benefit reforms here," he said.


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