RESIDENTS worried about the shake up of the benefit system and the introduction of universal credit have been reassured by councillors.

The government’s flagship policy, which involves merging six benefits into one single payment, is being phased in across the North West, including Bury.

The changes will only initially affect new claimants who are single, and it is understood that the policy will be rolled out to couples in August or September.

The council says benefit claimants with children are currently unaffected.

At last Wednesday’s full council meeting, Cllr Sandra Walmsley, cabinet member for resource and regulation, said: “We have been working closely with local and regional Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff to ensure that the rollout happens as smoothly as possible with no adverse effect on customers.

“The council will have a direct involvement in a number of ways and all are intended to ensure that customers are supported during the transition.”

The only way to apply for universal credit is on the internet, and the council has said it will provide support for people making online applications.

A digital hub in Whittaker Street has been created with people on hand to help, with another area being set up at the town hall.

The council will also provide ‘personal budgeting support’ for customers who are referred by DWP because they have debt problems.

Income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit will all be merged as part of the plans.

The government says the changes will help to simplify the benefits system and encourage people into work.