The next phase of Universal Credit (UC) implementation will begin in Northern Ireland next month with the launch of a discovery exercise based in both a rural and an urban location.
Universal Credit has been in place since September 2017 for all new claims. It replaces Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment & Support Allowance, Housing Benefit (rental) and Tax Credits. Around 147,000 people are currently on Universal Credit in Northern Ireland.
The discovery exercise will start on 17 April and involve around 500 people in the Andersonstown and Enniskillen Jobs & Benefits office areas who are in receipt of tax credits only and no other benefit. Learning from this exercise will be used to inform planning for the full implementation of the 'Move to UC' programme in Northern Ireland.
Deputy Secretary of Work and Health at the Department for Communities, Paddy Rooney said:
"We are beginning to move those on legacy benefits onto UC and are approaching this with care to ensure that the proper supports are in place for customers.
"The three month discovery exercise will involve a small number of people, from rural and urban areas who will be provided with a range of supports to ease the transition.
"As part of this we are engaging widely with the advice sector and other stakeholders. We will use the experience gained from this process to inform the next stages of the move to UC to ensure the right supports are in place for people, at the right time and in the right way."
Migration Notice letters will be issued explaining what people need to do and will include signposting to help and support. People will be able to contact the Move to UC Team on Freephone 0800 012 1331, Textphone 0800 012 1441 (for deaf users, those with hearing loss and users with speech and communication needs) and a UC Video Relay Service is available for sign language users. Information will also be available on the nidirect website and through the Department's 35 local Jobs & Benefits offices.
Anyone making a claim to UC following receipt of a Migration Notice letter will have their benefit entitlement protected through Transitional Protection. This means that people with no change in their circumstances will not have a reduced entitlement at the point they move to UC.
Legacy benefit customers should not do anything until they receive a Migration Notice letter.