Published: Friday, 5th October 2018

Residents who are claiming benefits in the Royal Borough of Greenwich are being urged to prepare for changes under Universal Credit as the system begins to roll out across the borough.

From October, most working adults needing new benefits will have to apply for Universal Credit which will replace housing benefit, income-based job seeker's allowance, income support, income-related employment and support allowance, child tax or working tax credits.

One of the changes under Universal Credit means that claimants will no longer have to make a separate claim for housing benefit. Help towards rent will now be paid as part of Universal Credit. However, the Universal Credit that is to help with rent will be paid direct to the claimant rather than to their council or housing association landlord, so tenants will now be responsible for paying their own rent in the same way that many private tenants already are.

If rent arrears build up for eight weeks or more, then the landlord can ask for the payment to be made direct - this applies to private landlords as well as council and housing association landlords. Direct payments can also be applied for in other circumstances if the DWP accept that it is in the claimant's best interests.

All claims will need to be made online, and every claimant will have his or her own online account. People without easy access to a computer can use computers available in local jobcentre offices and the Royal Borough's libraries.

Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears. The first payment, however, will be made seven days after that. This means that it will usually take five weeks for people to get their money, but an advance payment can be made whilst waiting for their claim to be processed.

'A range of support for people'

Councillor Christine Grice, Cabinet Member for Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: "The changes being made to the benefits system under Universal Credit are huge and will have a major effect on people who need to make a new claim or advise of a change of circumstances - having to wait five weeks from your claim to receive your money could be disastrous for people if they are not prepared for it.

"The Council has a range of support for people to help them cope with the changes - I would urge anyone who might need to make a claim to find out more now."

For more information, visit our Universal Credit web pages or call the Welfare Rights Service on 020 8921 6375 (open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday between 10am to 1pm).