Residents to prepare for Universal Credit

Residents to prepare for Universal Credit

Residents are being urged to prepare ahead of the full Universal Credit roll out next month.

Universal Credit is a monthly payment scheme introduced by central government to help with living costs and will replace 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.

Wigan Borough has been in ‘live-service’ since July 2013, meaning that some residents are already claiming Universal Credit, but from next month the borough will move to ‘full-service’, so anybody making a new benefits claim from 18th April 2018 will need to apply for Universal Credit.

Although Universal Credit intends to be a monthly payment, residents are being encouraged to budget now as it will take approximately 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, assistant director for customer services at Wigan Council 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, who is leading on the change, have 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. 

Wigan Council has been working in partnership with Citizen’s Advice and Unify over the last few months as part of their ongoing money management campaign and with full-service Universal Credit only round the corner, this work is set to continue.

And as Universal Credit is exclusively an online service, the town hall is encouraging residents to come along to their free ‘Be Online’ sessions at Wigan and Leigh libraries to become more digital savvy or access their 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 and those who are yet to set these up are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

Those who do not have enough money to live on while they wait for their first payment can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 or speak to their Work Coach to request an advance payment.

Posted on Wednesday 14th March 2018

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