Wigan braced for controversial changes to Universal Credit payments
Benefits in Wigan were being paid differently as of this week following the full service roll-out of Universal Credit.
The controversial monthly payment scheme was introduced by central government with the aim of helping with living costs and replaces existing benefits, including child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.
The borough has been in “live-service” since July 2013, meaning that some residents are already claiming the credit, but as of yesterday, the borough moved to “full-service”, so anybody making a new claim now needs to apply for Universal Credit.
Although it intends to be a monthly payment, residents are being encouraged to budget as it will take around five weeks for their first payment to come through from when they make a claim. Residents can request an advanced payment from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) should they be unable to pay their bills during this time.
Lesley O’Halloran, council assistant director for customer services, said: “We are aware of the significant debate around Universal Credit but our priority is ensuring residents are aware of these changes and understand what it means for them.
“We acknowledge that a monthly payment may be initially daunting to some but we would like to reassure these people that there is support available locally. We advise that affected residents embrace the new system in order not to miss out on vital benefits.”
Those currently accessing Universal Credit through “live-service” are urged not to make any new claims until contacted by the DWP as this could affect their current payments.
The DWP has reassured residents that unless they are claiming for the first time, have had a change in circumstances or contacted by them, they do not have to do anything immediately.
As Universal Credit is exclusively an online service, the town hall is encouraging residents to come along to its free Be Online sessions at Wigan and Leigh libraries to become more digital savvy or access welfare rights outreach surgeries for impartial advice on benefits and claims.
To apply for Universal Credit, claimants will need an e-mail address and a bank, building society or credit union account. For more about the benfiit and or to find out more about the Be
Online sessions and welfare rights surgeries, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/universalcredit.