Ian Duncan Smith confirmed the government’s continued shift away from a mass integration of the new Universal Credit system for benefits claimants by stating that the North of England will continue to be a test ground for introduction of the new scheme.

On the BBC Sunday Politics program yesterday he emphasised that the gradual roll out would be the continued strategy, with the North West being the main region that will see rollouts this spring – Shotton in Flintshire was one noted example.

The first area to see Universal Credit introduced was Ashton-under-Lyne in Tameside, Greater Manchester in April 2013 and there has been a very small rollout in new areas since, with approximately 10,000 claimants to date in areas such as Wigan, Warrington, Oldham, Hammersmith and Rugby. Harrogate and Bath are also to be added to the list of areas this spring.

The aim of the gradual rollout is to avoid the debacle that constituted the recent large scale IT integration into the NHS which saw approximately £29 billion written off by the government after the project was deemed to be unworkable. By rolling out such a massive change in the benefits system over time in small regions it is hoped that any problems will be ironed out before the mass introduction to the UK as a whole which is planned by 2016.