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Financial assistance given this Christmas

Residents across Wigan Borough who may not know they’re entitled to extra financial support are being given a helping hand this Christmas thanks to Wigan Council.

Wigan Council has recently undertaken a Winter Award Drive, identifying residents who may be eligible for housing benefit, Council Tax Reduction (CTR), discretionary housing payment and council tax refunds, discount and exemption awards.

The review is part of the town hall’s plan to help residents manage their finances ahead of the Universal Credit roll out in April 2018 and goes hand in hand with their ‘Don’t struggle with debt’ campaign in partnership with Unify and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

In the last twelve months, (October 2016 – November 2017) 1,718 people visited Wigan Council’s crisis desk due to having no food, no money or no gas or electric so the local campaign encourages residents to get support if they are worried about falling into debt or are already struggling.

Councillor Terry Halliwell, portfolio holder for welfare said: “We are committed to helping our residents manage their finances and ensuring their income is maximised to enable them to pay their bills on time. “At this time of year it can be easy to spend money on things that aren’t needed and there is support out there for residents who need help managing their money – such as credit unions like Unify.

“We recognised that a small portion of residents may be unaware of the extra support they could receive, so by identifying those who are eligible for refunds and discounts, we can help households who need it most. We hope this will ease stress, especially during this financially demanding time of year.”

When claiming for Universal Credit, unlike housing benefit, the local authority does not receive an application for CTR, however, to help identify eligible residents, the council will now treat every Universal Credit claim notified by the Department for Work and Pensions as a CTR claim.

Since November 2017, 1,150 cases were reviewed and as a result, more than £240,000 in unclaimed CTR has been awarded. And with the review continuing, it is hoped that even more eligible residents will be identified. This is alongside £5.2m in housing benefit and £158,000 in council tax refunds and discounts being awarded in December.

Councillor Halliwell added: “Thanks to our various payment plan options, we can also work with residents experiencing financial difficulties to help them pay their council tax bills on time, on a date that suits them. We encourage anyone who may benefit from this to contact us as soon as possible.

“If you find that you are struggling with debt and are unable to manage repayments, it is important to think about which debts you need to deal with first. There can be serious consequences to not paying your bills and we don’t want people falling into debt.”

Council tax reduction is awarded to residents who are liable to pay council tax and are on a low income. There are different levels of support depending on the circumstances of the household and residents can find out if they’re eligible by visiting www.wigan.gov.uk/counciltax.

For help and advice on how to manage your money, visit: www.wigan.gov.uk/moneyadvice.

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