MORE than 1,000 people each month could be affected by welfare reforms in St Helens, according to the TUC.
The Universal Credit is replacing certain benefits, including jobseekers allowance for people who lose their jobs.
In the past, most workers who were laid off had to wait two weeks before they got their first benefit payment.
But under the new rules, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks, which could mean going two months into rent arrears before getting any support.
It is thought around 1,035 people each month in St Helens will be hit by the five-week wait.
North West TUC regional secretary, Lynn Collins, told the Star: “Help should be there when it is needed, but instead people will be left to rely on food banks and pay day loans to see them through the wait.
“Welfare reform is one thing but the five-week wait is a collective punishment for anyone who loses their job.
“With these escalating bills, worsening job security and only a limited recovery in the jobs market, a five-week wait could easily push many more families into poverty through no fault of their own.”