Universal Credit on way to parts of Norfolk and Suffolk

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith arrives in Downing Street John Stillwell/PA Wire

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith arrives in Downing Street John Stillwell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The government's controversial Universal Credit scheme will be rolled out in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk in the coming months.

People claiming benefits in the Breckland, Forest Health, St Edmundsbury and Waveney districts will see a bundle of income-based benefits – including Jobseekers' Allowance, tax credits and housing benefit – merged into one payment.

The government claims it is designed to prevent situations where people can be worse off taking jobs than staying on welfare.

But Labour said Universal Credit – which will start to be rolled out in the districts in March and April – was massively behind schedule and saving far less than expected.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said the government's work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith had promised one million people would be claiming Universal Credit by April 2014, but the latest figures show only 26,940 people on the new benefit.

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'Labour wants Universal Credit to work and we'll call in the National Audit Office to do an immediate review of this failing programme to get a grip of the spiralling waste and delays,' she said.

But Mr Duncan Smith has defended his flagship Universal Credit scheme, insisting evidence shows it is helping people find work quicker and earn more. He cited government research suggesting those receiving the benefit were 5pc more likely to find employment within four months than comparable Jobseekers' Allowance claimants.

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Mr Duncan Smith insisted it had been better to delay the scheme rather than risk problems.

Beccles and Lowestoft job centres will see the new system arrive on March 23 and Thetford, Dereham, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Felixstowe, Leiston and Woodbridge will introduce Universal Credit on April 13,

Universal Credit is paid once a month and goes directly into a bank account. It will see a single payment for a household.

It also changes the current system where housing benefit goes directly to the landlord. Under Universal Credit, those claiming benefits will have to pay their landlord from their lump sum.

Do you think Universal Credit is a good idea? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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