A FOOTBALL club is backing a project designed to help benefit claimants cope with the new Universal Credit system which can only be applied for online.

The ‘Go ON Boro’ campaign is training a team of community learning ‘champions’ to show people how to access the internet. It is also creating a map of available computers across the Tees Valley.

The campaign is being led by the Professional Footballers’ Association, Unionlearn and Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation.

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Linda Hughes, of Unionlearn, which helps improve skills in the workplace, said: “If you do not have a computer it is going to be harder for you to apply and there will be people who slip through the net.

“The number of people getting online has been increasing steadily each year, however, the social groups least likely to be connected are older people, disabled, those on a low income and unemployed, precisely the people who could benefit most from information and services available online and who will be directly affected by Universal Credit."

The new welfare system, rolled out in October, is a single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income.

Figures by the Office of National Statistics state that 32,818 adults in Middlesbrough and 29 per cent of adults in Darlington have never used the internet.

Iain Sim, Chief Executive of Coast & Country, one of the largest regeneration and housing companies in the North-East, said: “More than 60 percent of our tenants don’t have access to the internet.

"We want to ensure as many as possible are able to tap into the practical benefits of the internet – such being able to save money by researching and obtaining cheaper deals online, apply for jobs or find out what training courses are available or research benefits to which they may be entitled.”

Andy Clay, of Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation, added: “Increasingly, technology is becoming vital to every aspect of daily life and through community work we strive to engage and support vulnerable people, helping them get online and enhancing both the quality of services available to them and their lives.”