Trial of welfare benefits system
BENEFIT claimants in Keynsham will be among the first to try a controversial new welfare system, the Government has announced.
From this autumn, Bath & North East Somerset Council will be a pilot for the Government's flagship universal credit, which has been billed as the biggest changes to benefits since the 1940s.
It will see a number of different benefits combined into a single payment that the Government insists will ensure nobody is better off on benefits than if they work. Jobseeker's allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit, incapacity benefit and income support will all be merged.
Ministers say the current system has become too complicated, with more than 50 possible payments that can be claimed and millions lost every year in fraudulent payments.
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But critics have said it will demonise benefit claimants, creating classes of "deserving and undeserving poor". Fears have also been raised about people without internet access, as the new system will be primarily based online.
Ministers insisted help would be available to people without internet access.
A total of 12 pilot areas were announced by Welfare Minister Lord Freud. He said: "We know some people will need support when they first claim universal credit and these projects will highlight how councils can use their local expertise to help residents."