Wigan pioneers project

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THE GOVERNMENT is to target under-pressure Wigan families as guinea pigs for pioneering new housing help.

They have been chosen to enjoy a share of a £4m scheme paying for innovative projects that will support eventual reform of the Housing Benefits system.

Latest figures show that 25,310 households across the borough currently qualify for Housing Benefit which helps pay rents in both the public and private sector.

Wigan qualified via a winning bid from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) which is chaired by Wigan Council leader Lord Peter Smith.

He said today: “This is good news for tenants and will help get the best deals and advice on housing. It is one of the benefits from the 10 authorities that make up AGMA working closely together.”

The Coalition says lessons learned from these projects will play a key role in “restoring fairness” to the Housing Benefit system.

Wigan tenants will be given help in negotiating rents as well as general money advice. Support and advice for landlords will also be provided.

These measures, claim the Government, will help put an end to rapid growth in private sector rents as well as leading to fewer people being put off work through fear of losing their benefits.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said in a statement to the Evening Post: “We want Wigan families on benefits to make the same choices as working families about where they live – but there’s no reason for anyone to be made homeless because of these measures.

“We are committed to making sure those who are making the transition are getting the right support and advice so that they can make confident decisions on their next steps. The winning projects who will be receiving a share of the £4m announced today will offer just that type of support.”

Local authorities were invited in May to present bids for innovative schemes to assist with Housing Benefit reform. Ten authorities, including Wigan, were successful.