Families urged to get financial help

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WIGANERS claiming under the new Universal Credit (UC) system are being urged to take advantage of advice services to help balance their budgets.

UC, which incorporates several existing welfare payments, is distributed once a month instead of weekly or fortnightly under the previous system.

New claimants in the borough have been moved onto UC since the Department Work and Pensions ran a trial scheme in 2013.

Tricia Hallows of Jobcentre Plus Wigan said “With Universal Credit benefit payments are paid directly into people’s bank accounts, and that’s why we’ve teamed up with the Money Advice Service to offer this free budgeting advice.

“Many people in Wigan will be finding themselves responsible for a monthly budget for the very first time, which is a big change if you’re used to getting your money every two weeks. It can seem daunting, but there is lots of free help available.”

By managing a monthly budget rather than weekly payments, ministers say the new reforms prepare claimants for when they are in employment and have to manage their financial affairs.

Concerns had been voiced from leading workers’ union TUC earlier this year that the recently unemployed could be forced to wait five weeks for benefits under the UC system.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While it is right to deal with people who abuse the system, the Government is now undermining the welfare safety net that any of us might need.

“Making people who have contributed all their lives - but who are simply unlucky enough to lose their jobs - wait five weeks before receiving any help is both cruel and vindictive.”

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said: “Universal Credit is a vital reform that will simplify the benefits system and make work pay. The seven day waiting period for benefits is not limited to Universal Credit but will apply to out-of-work benefits under the current system too.

“People can apply for an advanced benefit payment if needed. Paying benefits monthly is an important part of Universal Credit because it replicates the world of work.”