Check your benefits - on the Wii


IDS criticises foodbank charity

Gamers can use their consoles to find out how to claim benefits under a new system being promoted by Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Information on the Universal Credit scheme is already available to some digital TV viewers using the "red button" technology, but now it can be accessed by users of Nintendo's Wii console.

The TV information channels have had more than 30,000 hits since they were launched at the end of October, according to Looking Local, the organisation behind the service.

Ministers hope the TV service will help get the information on Universal Credit to the estimated seven million British adults without an internet connection.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said: "As we continue with the rollout of Universal Credit, increasing numbers of people will need to know how it affects them and how to prepare.

"Working with Looking Local, we have ensured as many tools as possible exist for people to find out everything they need to know about the easier-to-understand and more flexible benefit that is Universal Credit.

"We are also making sure Universal Credit is an opportunity for people to build online skills, so they can look for work and benefit from what the online world offers for 21st century life."

Sky and Virgin customers with interactive TV can view a raft of information, including checking their eligibility for Universal Credit and learning how they can make a claim.

Looking Local, which is owned by Kirklees Council, has also designed the only public sector service interface for a games console, which Wii users can now use to view the details.

The Universal Credit programme merges six benefits into one and is intended to simplify the system and make sure it always pays to be in work.

But the project has suffered a series of setbacks and Whitehall's spending watchdog has said the DWP failed to achieve ''value for money'' in its development and needed to adopt ''realistic expectations'' on the timetable for its delivery.

The National Audit Office warning came after Mr Duncan Smith admitted that more than £40 million spent on IT for the project had been written off in 2012/13, with a further £91 million of software code expected to be written down in value to nil over the next five years.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude was forced to deny reports of a rift with Mr Duncan Smith over the project, but said its initial implementation had been "pretty lamentable".