From BBC News, 25 November 2014.
The government's flagship welfare reform programme Universal Credit is being extended, with parents able to claim it for the first time.
The change will initially apply to parents in parts of north-west England.
The credit, which merges six working-age benefits into a single payment, had previously been available only to single people and couples.
It will be available in a third of job centres by Spring 2015, Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said.
He said the new benefit restored “fairness to the system”.
The universal credit system merges six working-age benefits – income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit – into a single payment in a far-reaching change designed to encourage work and reduce fraud.
Couples with children and lone parents will now be able to claim Universal Credit worth up to 70% of childcare costs, with a monthly limit for one child of £532, and £912 for two or more children.
It is already available to single and couple claimants in over 80 job centres in England, Wales and Scotland and will be available in nearly 100 job centres by Christmas, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“Universal Credit is bringing welfare into the 21st Century by restoring fairness to the system and making work pay in a modern labour market.
“As part of our long-term economic plan, today sees the next stage of this welfare revolution brining families on-board with extra childcare support and flexibility for employers. By spring next year one in three jobcentres will be offering the new benefit.”