A HARDSHIP fund to help vulnerable people in the city struggling with money before they receive Universal credit payments has received the backing of councillors.

Worcester City Council’s communities committee backed a plan to extend an existing hardship fund to include those claiming Universal Credit, where help with paying council tax is not the main reason for applying.

If the plan is backed by the council’s policy and resources committee, the council’s existing exceptional hardship fund would be extended to help those waiting weeks for Universal Credit payments and in desperate need of money to pay bills, buy food and pay rent.

The new hardship fund would mean payments could be made within three days of applying.

The plan also includes a yearly £15,000 grant to Worcester Food Bank for the next three years.

Cllr Louis Griffiths supported the plan but suggested scrapping the criteria that meant claimants must show they had applied to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) before asking the council for money.

She said having claimants having to go down that route would be dangerous and it would push people into debt.

She said: “My understanding of Universal Credit is that it is literally just enough to get people by.

“My preferred option for a hardship fund is that people in Worcester are not having to go to the DWP for an advance.

“The advance system they have put in place is quite dangerous and it encourages people to go elsewhere to make up that shortfall every month and get into debt.”

To qualify for the money, the person must have made a claim to the DWP for an advance and either been refused or not awarded enough money.

The person could also qualify if they had applied for a discretionary housing payment – extra money to meet housing costs – and were still waiting for it.

Cllr Alan Amos was unhappy at the council “bankrolling” a central government benefit and voted against the plan.