Despite running a pilot scheme for universal credit, which was launched in the region this month, half of residents in the north west are unaware of t…
Despite running a pilot scheme for universal credit, which was launched in the region this month, half of residents in the north west are unaware of the new initiative.
A survey by Think Money has found that 47 per cent of people in the north west do not know what universal credit is. Furthermore, of those who are on at least one of the benefits being affected, only 37 per cent have heard of it.
Some 48 per cent of the UK as a whole have heard of the new system, showing the pilot in the north west has done little to raise awareness.
Universal credit is set to replace many existing benefits with one payment. People who receive income-related jobseeker's allowance, employment support allowance, income support, working tax credits, child tax credits, housing benefit and disability living allowance will all be affected.
The scheme will gradually be introduced to all existing benefit recipients in the UK within the next four years and will be paid monthly instead of weekly or fortnightly. There are concerns this will lead to people struggling with the management of their finances.
According to the survey, some 17 per cent of people are already finding it difficult to budget under the current system.
At the moment, benefit recipients' housing benefit is given directly to their landlords or housing associations, however this is set to change as the individuals themselves will now get the money and will need to use it to pay the rent.
Figures obtained by BBC News reveal when direct housing benefit payments were piloted around the UK, the number of individuals who fell into rent arrears shot up. In Bron Afon, a housing community in south Wales, it rose by 50 per cent and Edinburgh, Oxford and Southwark saw a 30 per cent increase.
Universal credit could have some repercussions for individuals who currently receive benefit, therefore it is important for them to understand the changes and prepare accordingly for them. Those in debt may want to consider taking out a debt consolidation loan, which could potentially free up more funds each month.
By James Francis