A controversial one-benefit system has been fully rolled out in Hyndburn.
The government has extended its Universal Credit scheme to the borough - as of February 14 - part of its phased implementation nationwide.
Currently 1,439 single jobseekers in Hyndburn claim the benefit, but now all people who make a claim will be put on the one-monthly payment system which replaces housing benefit, income support, working tax credits, child tax credit, employment and support allowance and job seekers allowance.
Hyndburn’s Labour group claimed research shows 16,000 families in the constituency will be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.
The government says under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
However, a motion, supported by both Labour and Conservative councillors last November, had urged the government to ‘pause and review’ the roll-out of the scheme over concerns about how the changes would affect residents.
Clayton-le-Moors Coun Tim O’Kane said he was ‘disappointed’ that the government had chosen to continue extending the scheme in the borough when it had been shown to cause ‘job losses, rent arrears, debt, and even homelessness’.
He said: “The government is ploughing through problems it has identified from its own pilot schemes.
“It is causing hardship and misery for many Hyndburn residents.”
Coun O’Kane added that problems for Hyndburn residents would ‘inevitably’ increase as a result of the full roll-out.
He said: “If the pilot doesn’t work and the rollout is based on the pilot, the problems can only magnify as more and more people are affected.
“With Universal Credit they have financial uncertainty.”
In a written reply to the council’s motion, the Department for Work and Pensions offered reassurance that they had listened to concerns and made a number of ‘further improvements’ to Universal Credit.
Claimants applying for Universal Credit can now receive a 100 per cent advance on their first payment, and the seven-day waiting period for new claimants will also be removed later this month.
The government has also committed to continuing to pay housing benefit claimants’ rent for two weeks, which is non-recoverable, when they move onto Universal Credit from April.
Claimants will also be able to receive support from a ‘work coach’.