benefitsYesterday marked the next step in the radical reshaping of the welfare state so that the system works for hardworking people, as Universal Credit is launched in parts of the North-West.

People who live in Ashton-under-Lyne will be able to make claims to the new benefit from today. At the same time, Jobcentres in Oldham, Wigan, and Warrington will trial other elements of Universal Credit, including the new Claimant Commitment and signing people onto Universal Jobmatch.

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.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:

The start of Universal Credit today is a big step forward. We are finally implementing a benefit system that is fairer, where claimants will be better off in work than on benefits.

We are introducing Universal Credit in a slow and safe manner so that we get this important reform right and help more people move smoothly from benefits and into work.

The pathfinder will run from today through to the start of a progressive national roll out from October and this early testing of the new benefit will inform planning.

The first claimants to Universal Credit will be single jobseekers. Around 7000 people are expected to get Universal Credit during the pathfinder period. And those Universal Credit claims will respond in real time to changes in people’s circumstances, including when people move back into work.

People who claim Universal Credit will have access to support delivered by a mix of local authorities and third sector organisations to help them budget their money, and get online to manage their claim.