Universal Credit trial roll-out begins

The Government's 'radical reshaping' of the UK benefits system got underway today as Universal Credit began for jobseekers in the North-West of England.

Universal credit will merge several benefits and tax credits into one monthly pay-out.

Working alongside HMRC's Real Time Information (RTI) system for calculating employee earnings, Universal credit is designed to simplify the welfare system and reduce fraud and error.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith called it a system 'for hardworking people.'

Single jobseekers in the Greater Manchester area will be the first to use Universal Credit, with 7,000 people expected to use it during this initial trial period.

It will be implemented across the whole of the UK by 2017, eventually affecting around eight million people. The monthly payments will merge:

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit.

Iain Duncan Smith said: "Universal Credit is nothing less than the start of a fundamental cultural shift of the welfare system. This will revolutionise the way people experience the welfare state. It will make it easier for people [to] claim what they are entitled to, but more importantly, it will make it easier for people to move off benefits and into work."

Minister for welfare reform Lord Freud said: "We are finally implementing a benefit system that is fairer, where claimants will be better off in work than on benefits."