THE rollout of a new national welfare system which hopes to ‘revolutionise’ benefits is being introduced to Andover next month stirring mixed views in the town.

As of July 4, Universal Credit will go live in the area replacing six benefits with one monthly payment and is designed to simplify the old system and give people more control over their finances.

Andover Jobcentre said it is fully prepared for the transition, which initially will only be introduced for new claims or those who are changing their circumstances with an ongoing claim.

Jobcentre Plus Employer Advisor Hazel Prior said: “People will be given an awful lot of support throughout and when they are starting the claim.

“Universal Credit will encourage people to work if they can, it will be bring more money into the household.

“Everyone’s positive we know it is going to be good for people. It might be daunting at first for them because they will be going through changes but the support is there for them and the staff at Andover Jobcentre have had a lot of training and experience.

“We will make it as smooth as we can for everybody.”

The six benefits being replaced with Universal Credit are Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income support, Working and Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

Andover Foodbank previously told the Advertiser it is preparing for a potential increase in demand for its service before the rollout, in case difficulties are experienced that have occurred in other areas, such as delays in payments.

The Department of Work and Pensions has said it has made a number of improvements to the service to make it easier for people to transition to Universal Credit, including 100 per cent advances for first payments and the removal of a seven-day waiting period for new claimants.

Groups such as Test Valley Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Veterans in Action however share concerns over the emphasis of Universal Credit as a solely online system, which could hinder more vulnerable people to successfully make a claim.

Test Valley CAB operations manager Angela Kemp said how the centre has found evidence of some claimants in Romsey where Universal Credit has already been introduced, who have struggled with the digital element.

Ms Kemp said: “We understand that many people will be concerned about UC [Universal Credit] as it has had poor press over a number of legitimate issues, in the past.

“However, whilst it would be naïve to say that no more glitches exist, the DWP have made changes to the processing of UC in an effort to address some of the most problematic areas for claimants. In addition, the whole system is designed to be much more responsive to changes in income.

“We have evidence that shows that some claimants are having problems with the reliance on a digital system. UC depends very much on people being able to access technology and to manage their ‘Journal’ online. Not everyone has the facilities to do this easily, or to be able to ‘run’ a claim in this way.

“The very people who may have barriers to the electronic world can also be the most vulnerable. UC is supposed to have the ability to respond to individual situations, but until this is tested out for our clients, it is difficult to predict the success rate of this."

“Andover is a helpful place and the good news is that there are a number of agencies where advice and resources are on offer. We are certainly one of them so if anyone is struggling with UC issues they are welcome to contact us by telephone, email or by dropping into our office during opening times.”

Andover Jobcentre has said support will be in place and computers are available at its Beech Hurst office, libraries and job clubs where claimants can access their accounts.