Council offers support as Universal Credit rollout begins in Oxford

By Sarah Edwards

As the rollout of Universal Credit begins, Oxford City Council is launching support services to help Oxford residents who need to claim the new benefit.
Universal Credit replaces a number of existing benefits and tax credits for working age people who want to make new claims. Claims for Universal Credit are made online, and existing benefit payments will be replaced by a single monthly payment paid directly into a claimant’s bank account.
Universal Credit claims are managed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The council has agreed with the DWP to provide support for Universal Credit claimants who struggle to either manage a monthly budget, or to make and manage an online claim.
This support will be available through the council’s new Springboard Money and Springboard Digital services. Both services are available on referral from DWP work coaches, and in the case of Springboard Money, to people using advice and support agencies, or who ask the council directly for help.
The council’s City Executive Board agreed this week to set up a £50,000 emergency fund to support new Universal Credit claimants. New claimants will have to wait at least six weeks before they get their first full payment of Universal Credit, although they can ask for an advance payment which has to be repaid within six months.
The council’s emergency fund is intended to be a cashless system to supplement DWP advance payments. It will help Universal Credit claimants with their utilities, food and essential living costs while they wait for their claim to be assessed.
Councillor Susan Brown, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Customer and Corporate Services, said: “Six weeks is far too long to wait for your first Universal Credit payment, and thanks to Citizens Advice we know that nationally many people are having to wait longer. Advance payments are simply not enough to live on while you wait. We have now agreed to set up an emergency fund to help our most vulnerable residents avoid debt, disconnection and destitution while they wait for their first payment of Universal Credit.
“Universal Credit is very different to the benefits and tax credits people may be used to now. To claim Universal Credit, you need to have a bank account, you need to be able to pay your rent and bills and manage your other costs on a monthly basis, and you need to be able to make and manage your claim online.

“Our new Springboard Digital and Springboard Money services are there to help people to claim Universal Credit online and to manage their monthly payment. You can ask your DWP work coach to refer you for our support, or see our website for details on the other ways you can access help from Springboard Money.”

Universal Credit is a new benefit for working age people who are on a low income or out of work. It replaces a number of existing benefits and tax credits:
Housing Benefit
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
Income Support
Working Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit
People who get Universal Credit cannot usually get any of these benefits or tax credits separately.
Oxford residents making a new claim for one of the six benefits or tax credits listed above will have to claim Universal Credit instead.
Universal Credit is different from existing benefit and tax credits. It is a single monthly payment, which is paid directly into a claimant’s bank, building society or credit union account. As it replaces Housing Benefit, it includes any help towards paying rent. People who claim Universal Credit will also have to make and manage their claim online.
Claimants can now apply to the DWP for advance payments from the date they claim Universal Credit, and same day payments can be made in cases of urgent need. An advance payment can be for up to half a claimant’s expected Universal Credit award.
More information about Universal Credit in Oxford, including details of Springboard Digital and Springboard Money support services, is at www.oxford.gov.uk/uc