MUCH has been written and said about the introduction of the Government’s new welfare payment Universal Credit.

It is the biggest shake-up of our benefits system in a generation and as with any major change it has provoked its fair share of controversy. The principles underlying it however are straight forward: Universal Credit simplifies multiple benefits into one, making it easier for claimants to use and understand; and it ensures that claimants are always better off in work than on welfare, something the old system didn’t manage to do.

While some constituents have raised their individual circumstances with me, typically over delays in payment, they have been very few in number. Last Friday, I spent time in the Northallerton Jobcentre talking to the staff implementing Universal Credit on the ground to find out how the roll-out is going.

The team are doing a fantastic job and I was greatly reassured by what I saw and heard. The Northallerton and Richmond areas were among the first to roll out Universal Credit nationally with the first claimants moving on to the new benefit in June 2016.

A key difference to the old welfare system is that each claimant is now assigned a personal Work Coach to help them move into work. These Work Coaches now have more than a year’s experience dealing with the system. They described to me example after example of people who they had helped into appropriate work, in many case after years on the old benefits system – a system which due to the complex interplay of multiple benefits, effectively penalised them if they had worked more than 16 hours.

They spoke of the satisfaction in helping claimants escape the dependency trap, changing lives through assisting them into work.

Like the man who because of long term illness had spent 26 years on benefits. He had been encouraged to take a few hours’ work in a local café which proved so transformative to his general health and well being that it was extended to 18 hours.

Or the 34-year-old homeless woman with a number of health issues, family problems and no qualifications who was helped by her Work Coach to enrol on maths, English and IT courses run by the county council. Her coach helped her build a CV, prepare for interviews and ultimately secure a full-time job working in a local food business. It got her life back on track.

The Coaches also told me how as pioneers in the roll-out they had helped to change the way the system operated. They also appreciated the flexibility they had to modify the way payments were made to take account of individual circumstances – particularly those most vulnerable clients or those who struggled to use a computer.

I’m not saying that Universal Credit is perfect. No system as big as Britain’s welfare system could be. But it is infinitely better than the highly complex maze of benefits that it replaces. It provides the compassionate safety net we need to protect the vulnerable while properly providing help and incentives for people to find the work that will transform lives in a way a simple hand-out will never do.

It is also fair for those who pay the working age welfare bill which is now almost the same as spending on our NHS.

Taxpayers need to be reassured that this bill - £90bn a year – helps people to find or get back on their feet and doesn’t leave them trapped in a life sustained only by the state.