A SINGLE mum has revealed how being put on to Universal Credit left her in tears and begging for help at Christmas.

Nicola Winston is warning others of the 'dangers' of the new monthly benefit payment after going through more than 12 months of hardship to get hers right.

The benefit is being rolled out as a single payment to replace Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, and Working Tax Credit.

But its introduction has been dogged by controversy as administrators have faced IT difficulties and claimants have faced problems with cashflow during the changeover from one benefits system to another.

Mum-of-three Ms Winston has been in a constant battle to keep her head above water financially, while dealing problems ranging from unhelpful call centres to huge council tax bills.

The 45-year-old single mum from Dixon Green Drive, Farnworth, said: "I want people to know how ridiculous and dangerous it is.

"My concerns are not for myself but for people who don't know what I do and to encourage them to seek help. People who depend on income support and tax credit will be absolutely shocked at what they are getting into.

"They make it sound so good for people but for someone like me, a single working mum, its just doesn't work.

"It isn't helping people who are struggling and for people who weren't struggling, like me, it makes them struggle."

A former kitchen assistant, Ms Winston was put on Universal Credit in 2014 while job seeking but, after struggling to secure work, she was advised to become self-employed and became a cleaner.

Problems surfaced when HMRC calculated her monthly earnings at more than £788 when she earns no more than £400, meaning she receives less support then needed and has to pay full council tax rates.

It has left her working 50 hours week and struggling to get by once all her bills are paid.

Ms Winston says she was told the estimate was the one used for people who are self employed.

She adds: "They have worked my money out at a higher rate than what I earn.

"As a single parent with one young child you are expected to work 35 hours a week and after a year be able to make more than £788. It's just not right.

"Maybe shopkeepers, hairdressers, barbers and the like can make the money needed because they can get the turnover but for people like me it just doesn't work. There may only be a small number of us who can't do it but we matter too.

"It's a very complicated system and no one seems to know how it works."

On top of the problems with earnings, Ms Winston says that neither the Job Centre or the Universal Credit team told her the changeover would mean paying her own council tax bills.

She thought the amount was being deducted as it had been through previous benefits, so received a nasty shock when she was sent a back-dated bill of more than £1,000.

Ms Winston began to fear she would lose the home she shares with her 13-year-old son. MP Yasmin Quershi stepped in to help and she is now paying back the sum to Bolton Council.

Matters were made worse as at one point the new system left her without her monthly payment right up until the evening of Christmas Eve after the Universal Credit team did not process her payment.

However, she says she is determined to fight on with her work but wants others to be wary when agreeing to the credit.

She adds: "I work 10 hour days, walk 10 miles every day to do that work for £400. I love my work but I have nothing to show for it.

"I don't want to lose my job and I wont let them defeat me, but I will keep battling until they change the rates.

"The way it works, it's dangerous, and people should know that."