Universal Credit, the new system designed to replace multiple state benefits launches today and with it, a new online application system.
Residents of Oldham, Tameside, Wigan and Warrington and users of the Jobcentre Plus at Ashton-under-Lyme are today trialling the new online service as part of the government’s ‘Pathfinder’ scheme.
The trial is being launched ahead of a gradual nationwide rollout which will kick off in October.
Sources at the Department for Work and Pensions have confirmed that the new service will work on modern browsers including Chrome, Firefox and Safari as well as more recent versions of Internet Explorer and should be accessible from most smartphones.
An older ‘Services and Benefits Online’ system sparked fears that Universal Credit wouldn’t be accessible for everyone online.
The old page stated that applying for benefits such as Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Overseas State Pension wouldn’t work on Macs or any Windows PCs running anything more advanced than Windows XP. Oh, and it was recommended you use Internet Explorer 6 as well.
As the old Services and Benefits Online page says: “The service was designed to work with the following operating systems and browsers. Many of these are no longer available.”
This sparked fears that the new system would also not work, with Private Eye running a piece last week after the extensive Gov.UK site redesign. Thankfully, it looks like those claiming Universal Credit online at home will be able to do so using up to date technology.
To help those who don’t have or can’t get online eight computers will be available at Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre and over 130 computers will also be available at certain libraries and council offices in Tameside. As the scheme rolls out, more Jobcentres will provide online access for claimants. Elsewhere, a Digital Deal plan has launched, aimed at providing broadband access in social housing.
For those who want to apply for jobs online at home, we’ve put together this guide on the best packages to avoid getting caught in an offline benefits trap.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “Universal Credit is nothing less than the start of a fundamental cultural shift of the welfare system. This will revolutionise the way people experience the welfare state. It will make it easier for people claim what they are entitled to, but more importantly, it will make it easier for people to move off benefits and into work.”
Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud added: “We are introducing Universal Credit in a slow and safe manner so that we get this important reform right and help more people move smoothly from benefits and into work.”
Between April 2013 and the end of 2017, Universal Credit will replace Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefits.