It is widely recognised that the United Kingdom's welfare benefits system is too complex. An unemployed person, or someone in low-paid work, might commonly receive at least three different means-tested welfare benefits.
This complexity has resulted in:
A system that is slow to respond to changes in a customer's circumstances
A system where the same information is handled by two or three different agencies, creating an expensive multiple-handling of work
A system which makes unemployed people afraid to start work through fear of being financially worse-off, due to the aggressive income tapers in their various benefits
A system which is open to fraud and error.
Shortly after it came to power in May 2010, the coalition Government announced its intention to radically overhaul Britain's benefits system. In July 2010, it published a green paper, outlining various options, which included the Universal Credit.
Then, at the Conservative Party Conference, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, announced that the Government is to push-ahead with Universal Credit.
In November 2010, a White Paper was published, heralding the Welfare Reform bill.
The Welfare Reform Act received Royal Assent on 9th March 2012. Regulations are expected later in 2012, and the Universal Credit will be phased-in over the period 2013-2017.