STAFF at Bolton Citizens’ Advice Bureau say they are braced for the introduction of universal credit — but warn the government has not got the details right.
Richard Wilkinson, chief officer at the CAB in Mawdsley Street, has raised fears that insisting people access the new benefit through the internet will be fraught with difficulties.
CAB has been gearing up to the introduction of the benefit since the government announced its plans for reform.
Mr Wilkinson said they need “much clearer, stronger” guidance from the government on how people moving into the new system will be supported.
He added: “The research by CAB across the county shows how risky it is to plough ahead with this huge new reform without taking the time to get the details right.
"Almost half of survey respondents say they will struggle to complete forms online and almost one quarter are not equipped with the basic banking services they need.
"We’ll be working closely with Bolton Council, community organisations and other agencies to deliver these changes safely, but we need the government to address the problems our survey has highlighted.
“In CAB, we have had to work on different ways to ensure that people can access our service.
“The idea of a single universal benefit is a good one but the poor, unclear delivery is a big risk to our client’s wellbeing.
“Many challenges remain in delivering the project but also then an even bigger challenge remains on ensuring people are able to budget correctly and do not fall into arrears for example with their housing rent.”
Cllr Kate Lewis, Bolton Council’s lead councillor for housing and social inclusion, added it was going to be a “massive challenge” for people to cope with universal credit.
She said: “What should be happening is you give people the skills first to learn to budget, then you change the way you deal with the finances.
“There’s no way people can prepare for it. At the moment, people on temporary contracts or zero-hour contracts can plan with the weekly or fortnightly payments, but now you will have people in arrears at the beginning of the month.
“They are starting with the simple cases, but if these single people starts a family or moves in with someone it’s going to get very complicated.
“We will see an increase of people coming in who are in absolute crisis.”