Warning over plan to shake up benefits

Here to help: The staff at Sheffield Credit Union are offering advise.
Here to help: The staff at Sheffield Credit Union are offering advise.
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THE “fallout is going to be massive” as people with little or no financial experience, chaotic lives or learning difficulties suddenly have to manage their money.

That’s the prediction of Jackie Hallewell, general manager of Sheffield Credit Union, at the start of a huge benefits shake up climaxing in the introduction of universal credit in autumn.

The organisation is urging claimants to sign up to its new budgeting account which helps people manage their money and pay bills – or risk financial disaster.

Jackie said: “The changes are making people very worried and very scared. We already know how difficult some people find it now – they will have a massive impact. The whole advice sector in Sheffield has huge concerns.

“Our new account will help people avoid bank charges and all the stress of being chased for arrears. It’s the perfect bridge between having no control and being expected to have full control.”

The bedroom tax is being introduced this month, while council tax benefit is replaced by a scheme that pays less. A benefit cap comes in in summer and from October disability living allowance claimants will be reassessed for a new personal independence payment.

But potentially the biggest change will be universal credit which pays all claimants in a household a single monthly lump sum – in arrears including jobseeker’s allowance, tax credits, income support, employment and support allowance and housing benefits.

Universal credit is set to come in for new claimants from October 2013 and all existing clai-mants will be transferred by 2017.

Jackie said they were working with all 16 housing associations in the city, including Sheffield Homes.

She added: “The predictions from them is that it’s going to be a big problem. We wanted to stay ahead of the game before people start screaming and shouting.”

Sheffield Credit Union, on Commercial Street in the city centre, is a not-for-profit savings and loan co-operative. Call 0114 2760787.