DISABLED people have hit out against plans to shake-up the benefits system, fearing they will be worse off when proposed changes are made.

The government will pilot Universal Credit, which will merge six existing benefits into one means-tested benefit, from April next year, bringing it into force nationally in October 2013.

The Universal Credit will replace jobseekers’ allowance, tax credits, income support, employment and support allowance and housing benefits.

But many disabled people, and those on low incomes, fear grouping these payments together into one sum – which will be paid monthly rather than fortnightly, will make it more difficult for them to budget and pay their bills.

Virender Patel, 60, of Bramston Close, Hainault, suffers from muscular dystrophy, agrees with this argument.

He said: “No-one has explained it to us at all. Things are working for me at the moment, but if I suddenly had to pay more for my housing out of my benefits then I will be worse off.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who is also MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, says the Universal Credit  is a “vital part of our welfare reform agenda and we are fully committed to it.”

The government argues that the new system will make the system simpler and that it pays people to work rather than claim benefits.

But disability rights campaigner Sulaiman Khan, 27, of Spring Gardens, Woodford Green, who also suffers from muscular dystrophy, said many disabled people want to work but simply cannot.

He said: “As a disabled person I want to go to work, as do many others, but these changes could push people into work who perhaps aren’t ready because the support network isn’t there for them.

“Before the government pushes disabled people into work, they should sort out the infrastructure which would help us into work, such as improved travel access.”

Hitting back at the claims a spokesman for MP for Woodford Green and Chingford and Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Iain Duncan Smith, said: "The present system of disability support is a tangled mess of premiums and add-ons which is highly prone to error and baffling for disabled people themselves.

"The Universal Credit will deliver a simpler and fairer system, with higher payments for the most severely disabled people and improved support for carers. Transitional protection will make sure that people do not lose out just because they move onto Universal Credit.”

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