TODAY (Wednesday) sees the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) roll out Universal Credit into the Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly area.

From Wednesday (6 December), while many people in the region will remain on their existing benefits, unless their circumstances change, most new customers will claim Universal Credit.

On its arrival Fife Council Co-Leader, Councillor David Alexander said: “Despite our bitter opposition to Universal Credit it’s here and is likely to cause a lot of misery for many people. It really couldn’t have come at a worse time of year – a time when people traditionally struggle financially.

“As a Council we’ve already allocated around £3 million to help minimise the impact of the UK Government’s changes to welfare reform, and 16 welfare support assistants are now employed to help support communities through the changes".

He added: “We’re also working in partnership with other agencies including Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF) and have developed a new guide – Your guide to Universal Credit – which you can download from You’ll also find information about the other help and support available across Fife on this page too".

He added: “As well as the guide, we’re working together to provide training in digital skills to help claimants through the process of managing their claims online. Free access to the internet and computers is available at all of Fife’s libraries, local offices and community job clubs.”

Families who are most likely to be affected by the changes have been contacted and given information on where help and support is available and key services will be open over Christmas and New Year to cope with the expected increase in enquiries.

Council Co-Leader, Councillor David Ross added: “We’ve expressed our concerns about these changes, and the timing of them, over and over again.

“We have support available and have agreed that we will give tenants who qualify a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). They can use this to help them cover their rent over the seven day waiting period as this isn’t covered by Universal Credit.

"We’ve also arranged for help to be made available through The Scottish Welfare Fund. This will provide Crisis Grants tailored specifically to those who meet the criteria and are applying for Universal Credit, helping them without increasing their debt burden.

“We recognise that not everyone facing hardship, as a result of the Universal Credit roll out, will qualify for DHP or a Crisis Grant. If anyone finds themselves in this situation Conduit Scotland is a not-for-profit alternative to high-cost, short-term lenders such as ‘payday loan’ providers or ‘loan sharks’.

“I’d urge anyone claiming Universal Credit to make sure they know who and where they can get help. A great starting point is which also has information about Conduit Scotland.

“Alternatively if you’re having problems with your benefits, difficulty budgeting, or problems with debt, you can also go along to local Citizens Advice and Rights Fife office at The Fountain in Cowdenbeath or call them on 03451 400 095 .

“Please don’t wait until things get out of control and you are facing issues like rent arrears and debt. Help and support is available so please get in touch.”