Charity warns clients to prepare for benefit change

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A CHARITY that offers free debt advice in Northumberland has warned residents to prepare for forthcoming changes to the welfare system.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP), which runs a debt centre at Morpeth Baptist Church, says people should prepare for a shake-up in the benefits system that will be rolled out this autumn.

The Universal Credit payment began a small pilot in the spring to merge six working-age benefits into one.

But CAP fears that as the scheme spreads nationwide, it could draw some people into greater hardship as they may be unable to manage their money.

Morpeth Manager Kirsty Douglas said: “We’re at the very start of the system being gradually introduced.

“When it’s fully implemented Universal Credit will bring a lot of changes. It will be paid once a month, rather than fortnightly or weekly. Housing benefit won’t go directly to the landlord any more, it will go into the claimant’s bank account, and in trials elsewhere this has caused serious problems for some families.

“Our worry is that some people will be unused to seeing so much in their account and won’t be aware that the security of their home depends on them managing it well — a concern too for local landlords.

“Government ministers say most people will be slightly better off with Universal Credit — it’s just going to take some getting used to.”

She added: “Thankfully, the Government seems cautious about bringing in all the aspects of Universal Credit so this gives everyone the perfect opportunity to overhaul their finances and get ready where they can.”

The charity offers free debt support to anybody, regardless of age, gender, faith or background. It also runs free sessions of The Cap Money Course to help people learn how to save, budget and spend wisely.

For further information about its services visit www.capuk.org

For help with debt call the charity on 0800 328 0006.