Help for Birmingham benefits claimants

City council staff “ready to support Universal Credit claimants”.

Benefit claimants will be offered Birmingham City Council’s fullest support possible when the next stage of the Government’s welfare reforms are introduced next month.

Universal Credit is being rolled-out from April 13 – eventually consolidating six existing benefits into one backdated monthly payment. Government estimates are that there will be 17,000 new claims for Universal Credit in Birmingham in the first year. Birmingham City Council believes that the number of successful claims will be significantly lower.

The Department for Work and Pensions has requested that councils support claimants on the frontline given their wealth of experience both in terms of dealing with people making initial applications and with help on related matters such as financial planning.

Claims made in Birmingham will be assessed and processed by the DWP, with the city council having no direct involvement in the process. Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We had been initially told that Universal Credit was coming to Birmingham in 2016 but the Government for some unknown reason has fast-tracked the city to April of this year.

“But as was the case when the spare room subsidy and Council Tax reforms were imposed upon us, we will do everything within our powers to support some of the most vulnerable people in the city. This change will possibly be confusing and daunting for some – so we will be using the first-rate knowledge and experience of our benefits service staff to ensure this central government reform can be introduced smoothly for those in need.”

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion, Equalities and Community Safety, added: “Central government has rightly recognised local authorities such as Birmingham City Council play a crucial role as the safety net for some of the most vulnerable in society.

“We haven’t had as much time as we expected to get ready for this but will make sure we help citizens as appropriate. I’d urge anyone needing to access Universal Credit to familiarise themselves with the information we are making available through all of our usual channels.”