Twelve councils selected as universal credit pilots
The government has announced 12 local authority-led pilot schemes that will trial its flagship welfare reform policy, universal credit.
From this autumn the areas, which cover England, Scotland and Wales, will assess how claimants and officials will adapt to the new system once implementation begins in October 2013.
Universal credit forms the centre piece of the coalition government’s welfare reforms. It will see a range of payments, including housing benefit, combined into a single monthly sum.
The system will be designed so it can be managed online by claimants, and more payments will be made to claimants rather than the intended recipients – such as landlords, in the case of housing benefit.
The pilots will examine potential problems that could arise from these changes.
Birmingham Council’s pilot will look at ways of supporting people who need extra help with financial and digital literacy, while Oxford City Council will build on its role as a direct payment pilot to work with residents who are not in contact with Jobcentre Plus.
North Dorset Council will work with social housing provider Spectrum, Citizens Advice and a credit union on budgeting and employment skills for people in remote areas.
The pilot schemes are in addition to six ‘demonstration projects’ looking specifically at the impact of paying housing benefit to tenants rather than landlords. These began in June this year and are scheduled to run until June 2013.
There are also four ‘pathfinders’, which will begin operating universal credit six months ahead of the national roll out.
Lord Freud, the minister for welfare reform, said: ‘We know some people will need support when they first claim universal credit and these projects will highlight how councils can use their local expertise to help residents.
‘Helping people to claim online can combat social exclusion; getting online can improve people’s jobseeking skills and help people get ready for the modern workplace as well as giving them the ability to shop, bank or use many internet services for the first time.’
The 12 pilot authorities
- Bath and North East Somerset Council
- Birmingham City Council
- Caerphilly County Borough Council
- Dumfries and Galloway Council
- London Borough of Lewisham
- Melton and Rushcliffe Borough Councils (as a partnership)
- Newport City Council
- North Dorset District Council
- North Lanarkshire Council
- Oxford City Council
- West Dunbartonshire Council
- West Lindsey District Council
Two further pilots by Oldham Council and Wigan Council will be run as part of the pathfinder preparations.