The final phase of Universal Credit (UC) implementation across Northern Ireland will begin next month for those in receipt of tax credits and no other benefits.
The 'Move to UC' will start on October 16 when Migration Notice letters will begin to issue to all Working Tax Credits and/or Child Tax Credits recipients who receive no other benefit.
Universal Credit has been in place here since September 2017, replacing all new claims to Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment & Support Allowance, Housing Benefit (rental) and tax credits.
The final stage of the 'Move to UC' involves moving those who are still in receipt of the benefits and tax credits being replaced by Universal Credit.
Deputy Secretary of Work and Health at the Department for Communities, Paddy Rooney said,
"We are approaching the final implementation stage of UC with the utmost care to ensure that the proper supports are in place for everyone.
"The Department has been working closely with our stakeholders and the advice sector. We have recently completed a discovery exercise in both an urban and rural area to understand the impacts on those receiving a migration letter and the help, support and advice they need to make their UC claim. We have adapted our approach for those moving from Tax Credits onto UC as a result of what we have learnt.
"We will continue to closely monitor the impact of implementation and ensure that all of the necessary support is available throughout the 'Move to UC' process."
Migration Notice letters will be issued from the Department explaining what people need to do and will include signposting to help for those who need it.
The Migration Notice will inform people that they need to make their claim to UC within three months from the date of their letter and that their tax credits will end if they decide not to make a claim.
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.
Those entitled to UC will receive their first payment approximately five weeks after submitting a claim and will receive payments twice a month thereafter.
Deputy Secretary Paddy Rooney continued,
"Anyone entitled to UC may be able to claim extra financial support to help with essential costs while waiting on their first payment, including a Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant payment or an advance loan.
"Support will be available via a dedicated telephony team; information will be available online at nidirect and support will also be available at Jobs and Benefits offices. This information will be included in the Migration Notice letter.
"We are absolutely committed to supporting everyone through their transition from legacy benefits to UC."
Existing Working Tax Credits and/or Child Tax Credits recipients who receive no other benefit do not need to do anything unless they receive a Migration Notice letter from DfC. Anyone moving to UC ahead of receiving their Migration Notice letter will not be eligible to receive transitional protection.
All Working Tax Credits and/or Child Tax Credits recipients are asked to ensure that their contact details are up-to-date. This will ensure that they can be contacted and receive important updates throughout their scheduled migration.
The Move to UC Delivery Team can be contacted 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 online at nidirect and through local Jobs & Benefits offices.