UNIVERSAL credit is being extended in Guiseley and will now apply to all new applicants for benefits.

The payment replaces six benefits with one monthly payment and is already being claimed by single jobseekers. From October 10 anyone in Guiseley who would previously have made a claim to Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income support, Working and Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will instead claim Universal Credit.

The new system has come in for widespread criticism since its introduction in 2013.

But the Government says a £1.5bn package of improvements announced in the budget is making it easier for people. It says those applying to Universal Credit can now receive a 100 per cent advance on their first payment and the seven-day waiting period for new claimants was removed earlier this year. The Government is also continuing to pay Housing Benefit claimants’ rent for two weeks when moving onto the new system.

Minister for Employment Alok Sharma said: “Universal Credit is central to our commitment to help families improve their lives by moving into work. We know it’s working – with Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“And now we are rolling it out to a wider range of people in a safe and controlled way.”

Helen Browne, local Jobcentre Plus, said: “Universal Credit offers tailored support, which includes more personalised help from a work coach. The new system is also more flexible, which means people can take on short-term work to develop their skills and build up their experience.

“Our staff are trained to support people throughout the claim process. We’d encourage anyone who needs extra help or information to come and talk to their work coach.”

Last October Otley’s MP Alex Sobel urged the Government to fix “huge problems” with Universal Credit before it was rolled out.

He said: “When we hear from the frontline about the problems with universal credit - long payment delays, rent arrears, domestic abuse victims trapped, and the arbitrary sanction of payments - we must understand that they are no accident.They are about ideology.”

Earlier this month Sir John Major said the Government should rethink its national roll-out of Universal Credit, warning most Britons will think current plans are unfair after it was suggested that families could end up hundreds of pounds worse off.

The Tory grandee said failing to protect people who could lose out as a result of the welfare reforms would trigger “the sort of problems that the Conservative Party ran into with the poll tax”.

His intervention comes after fellow former prime minister Gordon Brown warned the scheduled roll-out would lead to “chaos” akin to that seen in 1990.