THERE will be a phased introduction of Universal Credit for new benefit claimants in Cotswold District.

Administered by the government’s Department for Work and Pensions, Universal Credit is a new online single payment benefit system for working age people who are unemployed or on a low income.

Under this scheme several benefits and credits will be merged into a single payment as an attempt to ensure that claimants are financially better off in work.

Cllr Mark Annett, leader of CDC, said: "Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system, and will allow claimants to amend their own details online. "This new system should also smooth transitions in and out of work, enabling people to become more independent by finding employment and managing their personal finances.

“I realise that some new benefit applicants might require some help to cope with the introduction of Universal Credit – especially the online aspects - but I believe that we have excellent arrangements in place at CDC to provide assistance.

"We have also ensured that town and parish councils are aware of this change so that they can encourage new applicants to seek help from CDC when necessary.”

Universal Credit will cover jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credits, working tax credits and housing benefits.

New benefit claimants in the Cotswolds must use the Universal Credit system.

It was introduced to several postcodes on Wednesday (October 4) and will be rolled out across all post codes within a number of weeks.

Existing claimants will continue to receive benefits under the previous system unless there is a significant change affecting their claim.

Additionally, new claimants with three or more children will not move to the new system.

The only other exemption is council tax support payments which will continue to require applications being made directly to CDC.

This is a major change to the benefits system, especially claims having to be made online.

CDC will be offering a range of support to assist new benefit claimants as the changes are phased in, including client support officers who can offer general advice and assistance with online form filling.

The council is also offering targeted advice on personal budgeting and employment opportunities and free online access through terminals in the council’s reception areas.

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