UK Politics

Red Button and Wii to include Universal Credit guides

A Nintendo Wii remote Image copyright PA

People will be able to check their eligibility for the new Universal Credit benefit via the red button on cable and satellite TV or by using their Nintendo Wii games consoles.

The Department for Work and Pensions hopes the measures will help reach the estimated seven million people in the UK without internet access.

Universal Credit merges six benefits into one, but the project faces delays.

The plan is for most claimants to be moved on to it by the end of 2017.

Information on the Universal Credit scheme is already available to some digital TV viewers by pressing the red button on their remote controls.

The TV information channels have had more than 30,000 hits since they were launched at the end of October, according to the organisation which developed them, Looking Local, which is owned by Kirklees Council.

'In denial'

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said: "As we continue with the rollout of Universal Credit, increasing numbers of people will need to know how it affects them and how to prepare.

"Working with Looking Local, we have ensured as many tools as possible exist for people to find out everything they need to know about the easier-to-understand and more flexible benefit that is Universal Credit.

"We are also making sure Universal Credit is an opportunity for people to build online skills, so they can look for work and benefit from what the online world offers for 21st century life."

Universal Credit is designed to encourage incentives for work and to reduce fraud. The Department for Work and Pensions says it will bring £38bn in long-term benefits.

But it has been beset by IT problems, with £40m of expenditure on new systems already written off.

Just before Christmas, Mr Duncan Smith confirmed that 700,000 people will not be moved onto the new system, as planned, by the end of 2017.

And last week Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude was forced to deny reports his team of IT experts were at odds with the DWP over the Universal Credit project.

Labour has said Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is in denial over problems with the implementation of the new system.

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