FRESH concerns have been raised about Universal Credit, the new benefits system that is due to be introduced nationally by the end of the year.
Lian Pate, who runs the Switch Centres in Burnley and Accrington, which offer advice and support to job seekers, said that people on benefits are being warned that they will soon be switched over to the new system, but that they have been unable to get clarification as to when exactly the change will happen.
Universal Credit, which is due to be rolled out nationally by 2017, replaces six existing welfare benefits, including housing benefit, with a single, monthly household payment.
It will require claimants to access benefits online, to pay rent themselves, rather than housing benefit going directly to landlords and to have a bank account which can handle direct debits.
Universal Credit has been criticised because people applying for benefits will only be be able to apply via a new online service, and benefits will be paid monthly rather than weekly.
Lian said: “One of our customers was saying yesterday that he was being placed on Universal Credit soon.
“We keep hearing this from Job Centre Plus, not just in Burnley but Accrington too, however when us or colleagues ask for written confirmation they say they don't have anything.
“It's very odd, but it does sound like the change is imminent, as in weeks away. It’ll hit folk hard.”
A spokewoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said that all claimaints in the North West would be switched over to Universal Credit ‘shortly’.