The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced Full Service Universal Credit in East Ayrshire – bringing major changes to the way how (and when) benefits are paid.
The DWP will manage and administer this benefit, not the Council.
Universal Credit will merge six benefits into one and replaces:
Craig McArthur, East Ayrshire Council’s Head of Finance and ICT said: One of the biggest changes is that Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears to one nominated bank account.
“Claimants will also be responsible for paying rent directly to their landlord, whether they are a Council tenant, in Social Housing, or in a private tenancy.
“These are big changes and many people might be worried about managing their money and living on a monthly benefit.”
However, the system is slightly different in Scotland, than in the rest of the UK.
In Scotland, you can opt to have your benefits paid every two weeks and also have the housing element paid direct to your landlord – whether you are in Council housing, social housing, or a private tenant.
This is known as a Scottish Flexibility and was introduced by the Scottish Government to help make budgeting and financial planning easier for UC claimants.
If you don’t make a choice, then your UC will be paid once a month directly to you and the offer will be removed from your online account after 60 days.
If you change your mind, you can still ask to set up, or to end, a flexible payment through your online account.
Councillor Elena Whitham, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities said: “Having the option of being paid UC twice a month and the UC housing element being paid directly to landlords will help many claimants.
“It helps people deal more practically with the significant changes of the UC system, offering more flexibility and choice when it comes to managing household budgets and help remove the anxiety of ensuring rent is paid on time.”
Applications for Scottish Flexibility are approved by the DWP, unless they think your request is unreasonable – in which case they must tell you the reasons for their decision.
If you are refused a Scottish Flexibility, you can’t appeal against this.
Mr McArthur continued: “The Council has a range of resources available to assist, including a web page with guidance on who to contact and how to manage your money, plus a handy leaflet showing which Council offices and services can help direct you to the best support.
“If you are worried, or struggling to cope with the changes, the most important thing to do is ask for help – you don’t have to go it alone, so please, do get in touch.”
The Council’s webpage for UC support can be accessed here: https://www.east-ayrshire.gov.uk/CouncilAndGovernment/Benefits/Universal-credit.aspx