The introduction of Universal Credit began a few years ago in selected regions as part of a phased roll out. The computer services libraries provide have been a key access point for benefit applicants. Universal Credit requires the majority of claimants to make their applications online and libraries are signposted as a location where people can use a PC to make their application.
Many claimants do not have computer facilities or broadband at home, and smartphones are not suitable for lengthy form-based applications. Libraries have supported claimants with the necessary facilities and have seen a rise in PC usage and related staff enquiries as a result.
Background to Universal Credit launch
Universal Credit was designed to replace six welfare benefits and tax credits. Its initial implementation addressed a more limited range with a focus on Job Seekers Allowance.
Then 12 months ago a national rollout began of the Universal Credit ‘full service’ involving all related benefits. Last July it was announced that this rollout will complete by September 2018. At this stage it only relates to people with particular changes in circumstances who, generally speaking, need to make a new claim. From 2019 to 2022, the process of migrating all other existing claimants on legacy benefits to Universal Credit will commence. So it’s been a gradual process but one that is now expected to gain pace.