A PROGRAMME for people with needing digital support with Universal Credit claims could be conducted by web chat.

Concern has been expressed over reduced funding for financial support and help with Universal Credit.

Cllr Andy Kay told members at a full Blackburn with Darwen Council meeting the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced an end to the funding for Universal Credit digital assistance and personal budgeting support currently provided by the council.

The replacement will be reduced funding for a service to be provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau under a national agreement.

An urgent meeting has been requested with the DWP to discuss the potential effects and implications for residents of the borough to minimise any adverse consequences for individuals and families.

Cllr Kay said: “The CAB still does not know how much money they will be entitled to. There is only a few weeks to go until this kicks in and we have got a major problem.

“I am concerned how much they are going to be given.

“At the moment, CAB do not think they will be able to deliver the service we would expect our residents to receive.

“We are not clear how they’re going to deliver support.

“They are talking about web chats but if you have not got a laptop or PC, how are you going to do that? One of their briefs is to support people with no digital skills.”

Latest government figures showed as of November there were 3,845 people in the borough claiming Universal Credit – 4.3 per cent of the population.

The UK average is 2.3 per cent.

Burnley (5.3 per cent) and Hyndburn (3.8 per cent) were also higher than the national average while Ribble Valley (0.8 per cent) was the lowest in Lancashire.

The proportions for Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen and Hyndburn were also above the average North West proportion (3.0 per cent).

Cllr Maureen Bateson added: “At the moment there’s so many residents who need this support.

“There are people with health problems who need really specialised help. They do turn to the council even when it’s not our responsibility.

“Are we really going to say we will take away this service for residents and go into the unknown?”