HELP and advice for local people claiming Universal Credit will be provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau rather than the local council from April.

But the change will also mean the end of the Digital Champions project, helping people with IT problems to make claims.

CAB advisors have always worked with the district council offering help and support to claimants and two CAB caseworkers will continue to be paid for until December 2019 although the Digital Champions project, which helps people with IT, will end on March 31st.

Dorchester councillor Molly Rennie said she feared that the loss of the Digital Champions would cause problems for many people who were not internet-savvy: “Without the Digital Champions people will be swimming in mud,” she said, warning that the area was running out of volunteers who offered their time to help others out.

West Dorset councillors were told at Tuesday’s overview and scrutiny committee that a number of problems continue to beset people trying to switch to Universal Credit : these include confusion about how the calculations are made, difficulties in proving identity, delays in payments and support for council tax payments being adjusted monthly.

In the year since UC was introduced in West Dorset the number of files being received each month from the Department of Work and Pensions at South Walks House has increased from 474 to 1130.

A report to councillors shows that the authority is currently paying local council tax support to 846 customers in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) and housing benefit for 39 customers in emergency of temporary accommodation who are also on UC.

It has also paid out more than £40,000 during the year to help local people in financial difficulties including one payment of more than £2,000 to help with rent arrears.

Bridport Cllr David Rickard said he was amazed at the amount of work which was going into changing council tax bills monthly for those on Universal Credit when their circumstances changed which meant many people getting revised monthly council tax bills.

“Surely there must be an easier way?” he said, “It seems unbelievable that this is happening.”

Councillors were told that eventually everyone claiming benefits will be transferred to the single credit but ongoing problems have meant repeated delays in having just one benefit system.