29 Apr 2013

Universal credit launched in benefits shake-up

The government faces protests as it launches the controversial new universal credit benefit system as part of major changes to welfare.

Universal credit, which will replace other benefits including jobseeker’s allowance, income support and other tax credits, will be introduced in four jobcentres in selected areas of Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham, Warrington and Wigan today.

In Ashton-under-Lyne people will begin claiming the new benefit today while in the other three areas other elements of universal credit will be rolled out.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has claimed the move will be the start of a “fundamental cultural shift” in 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.”

Read more: 2013 - How will my benefits change?

However, the Public and Commercial Services union will stage a protest at Ashton-under-Lyne urging the government to rethink the scheme and prioritise job creation instead of “demonising” the unemployed.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka claimed universal credit will “demonise and punish” jobseekers. He said; “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”.

Universal credit will replace income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, working tax credit, child tax credit, and housing benefit.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said the new system is fairer as claimants will be “better off in work than on benefits”.

The trial will run from today until the start of a national roll-out from October. The scheme is expected to be completed by 2017.