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New Universal Credit benefit system to be trialled across Greater Manchester

By Ian Silvera

The new single welfare benefit is to be introduced in the North West from April next year.

The streamlined Universal Credit, which replaces a range of existing benefits, will be given its first test in Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced.

The Universal Credit will replace the current income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income support, working tax credits, child tax credits and housing benefit.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “By sweeping away the complexities of the current benefit system, Universal Credit will be simpler and more straightforward for people to claim and this early roll-out marks a significant step in the delivery of our welfare reforms.

“The early introduction of Universal Credit demonstrates our ongoing commitment to transforming the welfare system and will improve the lives of millions of claimants by incentivising work and making work pay.”

Up to 1,500 new claimants are expected to take up the Universal Credit each month in those areas from next April.

It will then be rolled out from October next year, initially on a small scale in each region but with new claims for the existing benefits entirely phased out by April 2014.

The transfer of millions of existing claimants to the new system is intended to be completed by 2017.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said feedback from the first claimants next April would be used to make ‘final improvements’ before it is launched nationally.

Lord Freud added: “This will ensure that we have a robust and reliable new service for people to make a claim when Universal Credit goes live nationally in October 2013.”

A charity addressing poverty issues caused by unfairness in the law, legal and the benefits system Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, however, have opposed the trial in the North West and Manchester.

Zacchaeus 2000 Trust’s chairman Rev Paul Nicolson has authored an e-petition.

Rev Nicolson argues that the UC cap must not be implemented in Manchester because it will have costly effects on the health and wellbeing of individuals, parents and children.

The campaigner said: “Comfortable tax payers should reflect on the unreasonable stress to Manchester tenants when rent is made unaffordable by government policies and on the loss to many already vulnerable children of the protection of the local authorities and schools when they are forcibly moved.”

The petition calls on Parliament to prevent the mass changing of locks by bailiffs in Manchester by stopping the cap on the Universal Credit for Manchester claimants, reforming the Housing Benefit Regulations and creating a policy for affordable housing in all tenures which will improve not damage the health, wellbeing and security of every citizen of Manchester.

You can view the e-petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/34199

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