Universal Credit will be rolled out in Enniskillen in two weeks’ time and Enniskillen Jobs and Benefits Office has been getting ready to deal with the new benefit.

Forty members of staff have been allocated to fulfil Universal Credit roles and digital zones will be set up in the building.

READ: Enniskillen jobs and benefits office: Future secure until end of 2018

This is the largest ever shake-up of the United Kingdom’s welfare system. It will see a new benefit called Universal Credit replacing Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credit.

It is estimated that around 1,000 people in Fermanagh will be affected initially. Universal Credit will affect new claimants and people already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their entitlement changes.

Instead of individuals filling in multiple forms and managing several benefit claims, they will claim the single benefit of Universal Credit online, using a PC, tablet or smartphone.

A spokesman from the Department for Communities said that the recruitment and selection process of 40 Universal Credit roles has been completed and “all successful staff have been notified.”

He said: “The department has ensured there will be digital support for those who need it available in Jobs and Benefits Offices as they roll out Universal Credit. This includes Digital Zones with PCs and free Wifi which claimants can use to make their claim and access their online Universal Credit account, with staff available to provide help and support.”

The spokesman said that, to date, “approximately three quarters of claimants have been able to make their claim independently, with the other one quarter choosing to come into the local office to use the Digital Zone or seek help from staff.”

The roll-out will go ahead despite a letter from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to Prime Minister Theresa May calling for it to be halted.
Councillors told the Prime Minister that cancelling the roll-out of the new benefit would “protect the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged from poverty, rent arrears and homelessness.” 

READ: DUP abstains from motion calling for halt to Universal Credit

In response, the UK’s former Minister for Employment Damian Hinds told the Council that Universal Credit “is already delivering big improvements to people’s lives, with more people finding work, spending longer looking for work and taking up jobs they would not have previously considered.”
He said: “If we stopped the roll out, this would deny people the real improvement that Universal Credit is delivering.”

Meanwhile, The Impartial reporter asked the department what will happen the 41 remaining staff in the Enniskillen office who have not been given a universal credit role.

The spokesman replied: “The Department remains committed to ensuring that we place work in Enniskillen. There are plans to keep Job Seeker’s Allowance processing work in the office as long as that is feasible.”