Yesterday, the Government issued a statement on the timetable for the transition from the current welfare framework of multiple benefits to the new Universal Credit.
"Today the Department for Work and Pensions announces its strategy for moving 12 million working-age benefit and credit recipients on to Universal Credit by 2017.
Universal Credit is intended to provide a streamlined welfare system which makes the financial advantages of taking work or increasing hours clear to claimants. We recognise that the move from one welfare system to another needs to be carefully managed to ensure social outcomes are maximised and no one is left without support.
The transition from the old benefit system to Universal Credit will therefore take place in three phases over four years, ending in 2017 with around 7.7 million households receiving more support to find more work and be more self-sufficient.
Between October 2013 and April 2014, 500,000 new claimants will receive Universal Credit in place of jobseeker's allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit, Working Tax credit and Child Tax Credit. At the same time, a further 500,000 existing claimants (and their partners and dependants) will also move on to Universal Credit as and when their circumstances change significantly, such as when they find work or when a child is born.
From April 2014, the second phase will give priority to households who will benefit most from the transition, such as those Working Tax Credit claimants who currently work a small number of hours a week but could work more hours with the support that Universal Credit brings. Overall, 3.5 million existing claimants (and their partners and dependents) will be transferred on to Universal Credit during this second phase.
The last and final phase, which begins at the end of 2015 and runs through to the end of 2017, will see around three million households being transferred to Universal Credit by local authority boundary. This phase will have the flexibility to respond to the circumstances of particular local authorities as they change and will focus on safeguarding financial support, such as housing benefit payments, to claimants as the old benefit system winds down.
The Department for Work and Pensions will continue to work with HMRC and local authorities to settle on a precise timing schedule of the move to Universal Credit. Once agreed, the schedule will be kept under regular review."
Secretary of State, Work and Pensions
It must be borne in mind that this isn't the only big project underway at the moment, as HM Revenue & Customs are preparing to unleash 'Real Time Information', which will provide DWP with up to date information about claimants' employment income.
But, if it all works, it will reduce the administrative costs of our benefit system significantly, and make it easier for those eligible for benefits to get what they are entitled to.