ALMOST 1,000 Wiganers have started claiming their benefits through Universal Credit, latest figures from the Government reveal.
The borough was used as a pilot area last year for the flagship scheme that combines six existing benefits into a single monthly payment.
Despite a delayed start, welfare bosses have said the scheme is now running smoothly as it is rolled out to more areas across the country.
Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, who visited Wigan last year as part of its launch, said: “Universal Credit is bringing about a cultural transformation that will break the cycle of benefit dependency and poverty that has become entrenched in the existing welfare system. As part of the Government’s long-term economic plan, Universal Credit will encourage people to move into work and off benefits, while guaranteeing that a strong welfare safety net is in place for those in need.
“This is a big part of our transformation of welfare which will actively help hard working families.
“We will continue to expand the roll-out of this new benefit system that will make millions of people better off and secure a better future for Britain.”
Universal Credit started for selected Wigan claimants in July 2013 after a delay of three months from its original start date.
Problems with the Department for Work and Pension’s IT systems prompted criticism of the policy. One barb came from Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue who labelled it “Universal Chaos”.
Currently, only single, new claimants receive Universal Credit but that will extend to couples and then families from this summer.
Welfare changes - including the Universal Credit system and the bedroom tax - were introduced in a bid by ministers to reduce spending, make work pay for people on benefits and streamline the system.
Eventually, the new monthly combined payment will eventually replace Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.