Agenda item

Universal Credit Full Service November 2017


The Head of Customer Services, Lisa Jamieson, introduced a report which set out the move to Universal Credit Full Service (UCFS) on Wirral.


Nicky O’Connor, the manager of the Job Centre Plus had sent her apologies that she was unable to attend the meeting but had extended an invitation to Scrutiny Committee Chairs and Members to see the work being undertaken at the Job Centres in Wirral.


The report updated the Committee on implementation locally together with support arrangements in the process of being introduced to support Wirral residents claiming Universal Credit (UC) under Full Service, effectively from 15 November 2017, as the gateway to new applications in respect of Housing Benefit closed to most residents.


The matter linked to a number of Wirral’s associated 20/20 Pledges, significantly and directly ‘People’ pledges, protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring their safety and protection through reducing poverty and preventing associated hardship.


Currently nationally available data was limited. The DWP reported, as at 30 October 2017, that there were 4,945 people claiming Universal Credit across Wirral. Of this total, 1,679 working age claimants were in receipt of Universal Credit and claiming Council Tax Support. This represented approximately 8.6% of the total working age Council Tax Support claimants which suggested the remainder would move to Universal Credit over the next few years.


The Chair referred to the non-attendance of the Job Centre Plus manager, but although every effort had been made to ensure their attendance it was apparently part of the Civil Service constitution not to attend Local Authority scrutiny meetings.


Responding to comments from Members, Lisa Jamieson’s and Nicky Dixon’s, Manager – Assessments, comments included the following:


·  They Assessments team were working alongside colleagues in Children’s Services to look at the impact on those pupils claiming free school meals and the website would be updated accordingly regarding eligibility criteria.

·  Volunteers would be opening the service to make local welfare payments across the Christmas period on 27,28 and 29 December and the details of these arrangements would be communicated to all Members by email.

·  They were aware of the challenges in reaching people with no internet access and the Council was doing everything it could to engage.

·  A lot of work was being undertaken with social and private landlords so that landlords could understand how they could support their tenants.

·  There was a Universal Credit newsletter for landlords and there would be a dedicated landlord forum established in the New Year.

·  They explained the procedure for when issues were handed over to bailiffs, a Member having expressed the need for more leniency to be shown by bailiffs, and that this was only when all avenues for debt recovery had been exhausted.

·  With regard to the hardship fund this would be nearing exhaustion in the near future but the Council continued to monitor the situation.

·  People would go on to Universal Credit as their circumstances changed.


The Chair referred to the fact that the matter of Universal Credit would be discussed at the Scrutiny Chairs’ meeting on 4 December, 2017 as it did impact across all Scrutiny Committees, and it would be decided which Committees would discuss which areas. He also mentioned that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Scrutiny Committee would be looking at the issue of Universal Credit.


Resolved – That the report be noted and a further report be brought to this Committee in March 2018 following the initial implementation period. The purpose of the follow up report would be to deliver a summary of impact.

Supporting documents: