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A small pilot scheme for Universal Credit begins today in Ashton-under-Lyne, but it will only involve single people.
Universal Credit will be rolled out nationally from October. It will replace income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit and will roll benefits up into one monthly payment. The Government says the credit will be simpler and will ‘make work pay’. They claim that on average families on universal credit will be £16 a month better off. The credit can only be accessed online and details can be updated on a monthly basis in ‘real time’.
Three other pilots in Warrington, Oldham and Wigan which were due to start in April have been delayed until July.
From October, new unemployment claimants will be put onto universal credit. Current benefits and tax credits will gradually be shifted to universal credit from spring 2014 and the whole process will be completed by 2017.
Charities have raised concerns about the fact that the initial pilot does not include families. There are worries, in particular, about how the credit will work for part-timers as it aims to incentivise people on reduced hours to work longer hours.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “This Government is on the side of people who want to work hard and get on. 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 claim what they are entitled to, but more importantly, it will make it easier for people to move off benefits and into work.This is the first step on a long journey, and the pathfinder is our opportunity to get Universal Credit right. We will bring in this radical and vital reform in a careful and controlled way.”