Work underway to ensure smooth roll-out of Universal Credit benefits in north-east

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Preparations are under way for the roll-out of a benefit which has previously led to a rise in the number of people applying for crisis loans.

All central and south Aberdeenshire residents who claim any of six allowances will switch to Universal Credit on October 31 and a new report outlines the local authority’s work to bring about a smooth transition.

Recipients who usually receive payments every four weeks will have to wait five weeks, meaning people will have to stretch their October payment for an extra week.

The report, which is to be considered by Marr area committee on Tuesday, said: “The Aberdeenshire support and advice team has noted an increase in the number of Universal Credit claimants requesting a crisis grant while waiting for their initial monthly payment.”

Scottish Welfare Fund statistics show 1,475 people applied to the council for crisis loans in 2017-18 compared with 740 in 2013-14 – and the number of applicants has risen annually in the last four years.

According to the report, the council is “strengthening the network of support services” by, for example, advising people who believe the change will leave them short of cash to apply for a Universal Credit advance payment from the Department of Work and Pensions.

The transition also means claimants will be able to keep on having their rent payment taken directly from their benefit or pay their rent themselves.

Council staff are also working with property landlords in an effort to inform them about problems tenants may face.

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A drop-in event organised by the council for private landlords is to take place in Banchory today.

“This will give landlords the opportunity to ask any questions regarding Universal Credit,” the report said.

It added: “Prior to the roll-out in Kincardine and Mearns and north Aberdeenshire, a number of events took place to raise awareness and share information (with council staff and representatives of other organisations).

“These events were well received and similar events are planned in Inverurie and Stonehaven during October.

“A further event will be arranged in Ballater if required.”

Universal credit is due to be rolled out in full in Aberdeen on October 31.