The government faced a wave of protest yesterday, as it launched a new benefit as part of a “fundamental cultural shift” in the welfare system.
Universal Credit, which replaces other benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance, income support and tax credits, was introduced in four job centres in the north-west of England.
People in Ashton-under-Lyne could claim the new benefit from yesterday, while in the other three areas, elements of Universal Credit will be trialled before possibly being rolled out across the country.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “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 to claim what they are entitled to, but, more importantly, it will make it easier for people to move off benefits and into work.”
But the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents staff in job centres, said it was planning to stage a protest at Ashton-under-Lyne, adding that the government should rethink Universal Credit and prioritise creating jobs and supporting people in them instead of “demonising” those out of work and entitled to benefits.