PEOPLE preparing to claim Universal Credit are being advised that they can set up and access their online application by visiting their local library.

Universal Credit, which is already in place for some claimants in the Seaham and Peterlee areas, is being rolled out to Bishop Auckland, Crook, Consett, Stanley and some parts of Barnard Castle this week for new claimants and those on existing benefits who have had a change in their circumstances.

Durham County Council is reminding residents that its libraries and customer access points all offer free internet access, which they can use to submit and update their claim form.

Computers can be booked in advance in person at any of the venues.

Councillor Jane Brown, the council's cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “The latest phase of the roll-out of Universal Credit in County Durham will mean a number of people will be submitting a claim over the coming weeks.

“We’ve been working closely with the DWP and other organisations, including the Advice in County Durham Partnership, to ensure people understand the changes to the benefit system and how these changes may affect them.

“We’re also making sure that help is at hand for people who are having difficulty with the application process, with staff at our customer access points available to offer advice and guidance, where needed to supplement the support available from the DWP via their JobCentre Plus offices.”

Administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Universal Credit merges six benefits, including housing benefit and tax credits, into a single payment.

It is paid every four weeks, but due to the initial waiting period, and depending on when the first claim is made, the first payment may not be made for six weeks. Claimants can make a request for an advance payment, currently up to 50 per cent of their entitlement, which would be paid more quickly.

For more information visit or call 03000-260000.