What are the changes
From April, in England, Scotland and Wales, working-age benefits and Tax Credits have been gradually replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit.
Initially a pilot scheme, from last month, anyone who faced a significant change of circumstances, such as when a child is born or starting a new job, was switched to Universal Credit, replacing:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker's allowance
- Income-related employment support allowance
- Housing benefit
- Child tax credit
- Working tax credit
What are the rules?
Tougher sanctions such as the freezing of benefit payments kick in if a claimant, for instance, does not fulfil their jobseeking deal and fails to show they are determined to find a job.
To get Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) you must:
- be 18 or over but below State Pension age - there are exceptions if you’re 16 or 17
- not be in full-time education
- be in England, Scotland or Wales
- be able and available for work
- be actively seeking work
- work on average less than 16 hours a week
- go to a JSA interview
What the government says
Minister for Employment Esther McVey says the changes mean the government is "ending the something for nothing culture".
What the charities say
The Charity Citizens Advice has called for an overhaul of the benefits regime, in the wake of a huge increase in the number of jobseekers receiving sanctions.
Charity Child Poverty Action said that 120 disabled people who had been receiving Jobseekers Allowance have been given a three-year fixed duration sanction since October 2012.
Oxfam said the new rules have left many people without food and basic necessities.
Who to contact