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The UK Government’s new Universal Credit benefit will be rolled out to Renfrewshire on Monday 22 June – replacing Job Seeker’s Allowance applications for single people aged between 18 and 60.

Those applying for Universal Credit could wait for up to 5 weeks for their first payment and Renfrewshire Council’s Depute Leader wants local people to be aware of the changes the new benefit will bring.

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Councillor Mike Holmes, who also chaired the Renfrewshire Tackling Poverty Commission, said: “We recently wrote to the UK Government for clarification about the job seeking rules for Universal Credit and the impact these could have on benefit sanctions if conditions set are particularly difficult to meet. Paisley has the highest number of sanctions in the West of Scotland and we need to know this won’t get worse.

“Universal Credit claimants will be given their Housing Benefit directly – whereas previously it went straight to their landlord to cover their rent. This means many people will now have to cope with making the transfer themselves to make sure their rent is paid.

“Those who apply for the new benefit will also have to wait for up to 5 weeks for their first payment and I’m concerned about how people will cope with this. In these cases, residents should ask their work coach for a benefit advance to bridge any gap.”

The council has set up a dedicated phone number for residents about Universal Credit on 0300 300 1433.

Applications must be made online. For anyone who needs digital support, the council has a booklet called ‘Digital Directory’ that lists all the places you can get help.

The booklet is available at local libraries, or if you have a smartphone, see it at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/computers

Anyone who would have difficulty receiving the ‘housing costs’ payment of Universal Credit, and transferring it to their landlord to cover their rent, should raise this with their Job Centre adviser.

Residents worried about waiting 5 weeks to receive their first Universal Credit payment, should ask their Job Centre adviser about a benefit advance to bridge the gap.

To apply for Universal Credit visit: www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit