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Greater Manchester and Cheshire testing ground for universal credit

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The government has announced plans to launch universal credit six months ahead of the national rollout in October 2013.

The scheme will go live in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire region in April 2013. The Department for Work and Pensions said that the early rollout of its new benefit system is expected to see up to 1,500 new universal credit claimants join the system across four areas - Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington - each month.

Announcing the plans, pensions secretary Iain 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 rollout 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."

The department said that work will continue over the coming months to ensure that job centres, local authorities and employers in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire region are equipped to support the new service ahead of the early rollout in April next year.

Universal credit is set to be the government's first 'digital by default' service, and will replace its current benefit system. Around £2bn funding has been allocated over the government's spending review period for its implementation.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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