The four-year rollout of the controversial new universal credit benefits payment has begun for a small number of new claimants in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester.
Under the system those looking for work will receive a single benefits payment each month directly into their bank accounts, replacing income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said that Universal Credit will begin a “fundamental cultural shift” in the welfare system.
He said: “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.”
Universal credit has come under attack from some groups, who argue that the system will hinder, rather than help, those entitled to benefits.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents staff in Jobcentres, argued that it will stage a protest at Ashton-under-Lyne.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “If Universal Credit was being introduced to genuinely make life easier for people entitled to benefits it would be commendable, but the Government’s pernicious language exposes its real intent is to demonise and punish them.
“We have shown that ministers are prepared to mislead and misdirect to drive through their welfare cuts, so we are challenging Iain Duncan Smith and others to prove what they claim is true.
“The next time a minister says people are better off on benefits than in work, give them a pen and paper and ask them to show you how.”
Universal Credit will begin its national rollout this October, with the introduction of the system finally set to be completed in 2017.