RESIDENTS of Tyldesley, Atherton and Leigh are being advised to improve their digital and online skills or risk missing out on “vital benefits”.

Next month sees the big benefits shake-up when the government introduces its Universal Credit monthly payment scheme to replace existing benefits.

But to access payments, claimants will need an email address as the scheme is exclusively online. They will also need a bank, building society or credit union account.

Wigan Council is offering free ‘Be Online’ sessions at Wigan and Leigh libraries to help people become more digital savvy.

Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director for customer services at Wigan Council said: “We are aware of the significant debate around Universal Credit but our priority is ensuring residents are aware of these changes and understand what it means for them.

“We acknowledge that a monthly payment may be initially daunting to some but we would like to reassure these people that there is support available locally. We advise that affected residents embrace the new system in order not to miss out on vital benefits.”

Wigan Borough has been in ‘live-service’ since July 2013, meaning that some residents are already claiming Universal Credit, but from next month the borough will move to ‘full-service’,

This means anyone making a new benefit claim from 18 April will need to apply for Universal Credit which replaces benefits such as child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Residents are being encouraged to budget now as it will take approximately five weeks for their first payment to come through from when they make a claim. If necessary, they can request an advanced payment should they be unable to pay their bills during this time.

Those currently accessing Universal Credit through ‘live-service’ are urged not to make any new claims until contacted by the DWP as this could affect their current payments.

For more information about Universal Credit and or to find out more about the ‘Be Online’ sessions and welfare rights surgeries, visit

* Those who do not have enough money to live on while they wait for their first payment can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 or speak to their Work Coach to request an advance payment.