On Friday I visited Wembley Jobcentre to discuss with staff and Wembley residents the roll out of Universal Credit in Brent North.
Only 1100 people are currently on UC in Brent North and only new claimants are going on to UC. We are not one of the pilot areas. This means that here in Brent we will not see claimants who are currently on housing or disability benefits having to migrate onto the single Universal Credit system for more than two years yet.
I hope this will have allowed time to resolve many of the problems there we have seen in other parts of the country before residents here are affected.
Certainly the staff I met with on Friday have been doing everything they can to help people into work; and where that is not possible to secure all the benefits to which they are entitled.
When I was there on the 17th of May, the oldest outstanding claim for Universal Credit dated from the 7th May — just 10 days — and that delay was because they were trying to secure all the necessary documentation. But the emphasis was very much on helping people get what they were due as quickly as possible.
I want to thank all the staff who showed me round, answered all of my most searching questions and really impressed me with the way they saw themselves, as providing a service to the whole community.
UC is a single payment which replaces six means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age individuals and families.
I was concerned because it has been plagued by problems in its design and delivery in other parts of the country. It was intended to lift people out of poverty and smooth the transition into work to ensure that it always pays.
Unfortunately, the programme caused real hardship for many people who had to move off their existing benefits onto UC and has pushed some claimants into debt and rent arrears.
The stopping of the roll out and the start of a new pilot scheme in 18 months came only after much pressure from Labour MPs and a change of two Secretaries of State at the top.
So it is a great relief to know that Brent residents are not going to have to go through the migration process until things are properly sorted.
If you are a resident of Brent North, and are having problems in relation to your Universal Credit or benefits claim, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be happy to work with you as your Member of Parliament.