POLITICS
19/06/2015 05:35 BST | Updated 19/06/2015 06:59 BST

Iain Duncan Smith Welcomes Record Universal Credit Applications

Oli Scarff via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 18: Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, arrives to attend the Government's weekly Cabinet meeting at Number 10 Downing Street on December 18, 2012 in London, England. Queen Elizabeth II attended the weekly Cabinet meeting as an observer, the first time a monarch has done so since Queen Victoria attended a cabinet meeting of her government over a century ago. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Iain Duncan Smith has welcomed new figures that show a record number of people applying for the Universal Credit.

According to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), in May over 3,800 new applications were made a week for the government's new benefit system.

Introduced by work and pensions secretary Duncan Smith under the coalition government, Universal Credit rolls six means-tested benefits and tax credits into one payment. It was piloted in some areas in 2013.

Duncan Smith told The Huffington Post: "Universal Credit is restoring fairness to the welfare system and making sure work always pays - and today marks another milestone in the national roll out.

"Already we can see the clear benefits of the new system, with people on Universal Credit moving into work faster and staying in work longer. By providing that clear incentive to move off benefits and into a job, Universal Credit is transforming lives: encouraging and supporting people to gain the dignity and economic security that earning a wage brings."

According to the government, the new benefit is now available at 45% of all Jobcentres and will be available everywhere by the end of spring 2016. DWP argues it will reduce unemployment by 300,000, make 3 million households better off by £2,000 a year and add £7bn annually to the economy.

The programme has been beset by problems. And Duncan Smith will hail the figures as proving his overhaul of the welfare system is on track. He will be keen to prove to sceptics within the Conservative Party, and the Treasury, that the flagship scheme can work.

Earlier this month the Resolution Foundation, which while supporting the overall aim of Universal Credit, described it as having been a "rudderless tanker heading for the rocks". Nick Timmins, the chairman of the think-tank said in a report published on June 8 that Duncan Smith's new benefit programme "remains a monumental challenge" for the newly-elected Conservative government.

In its general election manifesto, Labour said it would "pause" the Universal Credit policy. Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said in May that while the Opposition supported it in principle, the management of its deployment across the country was in "chaos".

"We set up a universal credit rescue committee in the autumn of last year because we had seen, from the National Audit Office [and] from the Public Accounts Committee, report after report showing that this project is massively over budget, and it is not going to be delivered according to the government timetable," she told the BBC.