A major change in how benefits are handed out is going to have a negative impact on “the most vulnerable”, a councillor has warned.

Universal Credit (UC) was rolled out across Greenwich at the beginning of last month.

The new system replaces six existing benefits – Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – with a single payment.

The flagship Conservative proposal has been criticised for running over-budget, causing delays to people’s payments and in some cases making vulnerable people worse off.

In some parts of the country it has led to a surge in people using food banks.

Last night the deputy leader of Greenwich Council was asked how people on UC will be supported.

Cllr David Gardner said: “All our councillors have had briefings on the impact of UC. We are working with Citizens Advice to give them extra support.

“Our housing people are working closely with tenants because one of the big things with this is that you can go five or more weeks without any money at all.

“Two in five people will be worse off with UC compared to their benefits. It will have a huge impact as it has at other parts of the country.”

While the system, first introduced in 2013, was supposed to be up and running by April 2017, it is now not expected to be fully operational until December 2023.

The deputy leader said part of an increase in council tax was an anti-poverty premium that will be used to support the rollout.

He said: “We are taking a sympathetic view in supporting people and tenants.

“At the end of the day it is an ill-thought-out Government policy that whilst it may have been delayed and softened it is going to have a negative impact on the most vulnerable people in Greenwich”.

The Government says UC  will make the benefits system easier and more flexible – so people who are able to work are rewarded.

Universal Credit, a guide:

– Who will be affected?

About one million working families and 745,000 people unable to work because of long-term illness or disability.

– Will anyone be worse off?

The Government has provided a pot of money for “transitional protection”, which ministers say will mean no claimants suffer a cut to payments unless their circumstances have changed.

– Will there be a wait for payments?

UC is paid in arrears, and the first payment is not given until at least five weeks after a claim is lodged. Claimants can apply for advance payments to avoid hardship.

– Why is it being introduced?

Ministers say the new system is simpler and easier. They believe it creates incentives for claimants to take on work or increase hours.

The Government also says that once fully rolled out, it will deliver £8 billion a year to the economy per year.