JOBSEEKERS in Bolton today become the next to join the government’s benefits system “revolution” — despite a backlash from politicians and charities.
Universal credit will be introduced at Bolton’s two Jobcentres in Great Moor Street and Blackhorse Street from today.
The new payment will merge six benefits — jobseekers’ allowance, housing benefit, income support, employment and support allowance and working tax and child tax credit — which will be paid directly to claimants’ bank accounts once a month.
Welfare reform minister Lord David Freud said the government was rolling out the “ground breaking” reform across the north west, and that the new system will ensure people are better off if they are in work rather than on welfare.
Initially, they will be dealing with just “simple” claims — covering people who are unemployed, seeking work and single, before a full rollout.
Lord Freud said: “With record numbers of people in work, universal credit is destined to play a huge part in helping to build a stronger and more resilient economy for the future as part of our long-term plan.
“Under universal credit, claimants are given support that is tailored to their individual needs, and they can now rest assured that when they increase their hours they will be better off financially, rather than fearing their benefits will be cut as a consequence of taking on more work.”
The rollout of universal credit has been fraught with difficulties.
Cabinet minister Ian Duncan Smith announced in December that more than £40 million had been written off on software and computing costs for its implementation.
Last week, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said Labour would “pause” the reform if it got into power in May, 2015, over fears it was massively over budget — a suggestion dismissed as “baffling” by Lord Freud.
Bolton West MP Julie Hilling said there needs to be proper provision in place before a roll-out in the north west to prevent another “fiasco” akin to the personal independence payments, in which many people have faced months of delays before receiving benefits.
Ms Hilling added: “The proposed role out of universal credit here in the north west is a huge concern to me due to the government’s incompetence, as every milestone of its introduction has been missed so far.
“We need Iain Duncan Smith and the government to take responsibility for the scheme and ensure provision for universal credit is in place before it is rolled out fully.”