Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Reuters)

A quarter of Universal Credit claimants seeking additional funds turn to family and friends on top of their benefit payments, according to new government-backed research.

UC combines six benefits and tax credits into one, and is designed to encourage claimants to do "all they can to get into work", says the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But a survey commissioned by the DWP revealed 15% more claimants of UC receive financial assistance from other sources than their benefits than compared to those on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

The study, which was conducted by research company IFF, questioned 901 claimants over four UC pathfinder areas in Greater Manchester as well as 1,800 new JSA recipients who would be eligible for UC if they were living in the pathfinder areas.

The research found a larger percentage of UC claimants (34%) than JSA claimants (19% JSA comparison, 26% JSA national) had obtained additional funds on top of their benefit payments.

In particular, of those who sought out additional funds, the study found a quarter (25%) of UC claimants received financial assistance from their families and friends, but only 17% from the JSA comparison group adopted this approach.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, claimed the government was beginning to see a "cultural shift" under UC.

"It is great that claimants are getting the help they need from our Jobcentre Plus advisers and that they feel confident about managing changes such as monthly payments," said Duncan Smith.

"It is vital that we continue to build on the progress made in these pathfinder areas and ensure that UC makes work pay."

The research also revealed 4% of the UC group who sought out additional funds turned to payday loans - 3% in the JSA comparison group followed the same route.

However, the study found people claiming UC reported looking for work for 27.1 hours a week on average, compared to 13.6 hours by a comparable group of JSA claimants.

In addition, the report said claimants of the new system also apply for more jobs per week, typically submitting 16 applications for work while JSA recipients apply for 11.

The DWP also suggested that the stricter job seeking requirements set out in their Claimant Commitment are encouraging people to look for work.

A majority (76%) of UC claimants, for instance, said that knowing their benefits would be reduced or stopped if they did not complete activities agreed with their work coach made them more likely to search for jobs.

"Ministers mustn't draw any conclusions from these very early numbers," added Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

"Universal credit can potentially have a huge positive impact but the project has been beset with uncertainty and own goals."

'Shocking Failures'

The figures follow a damning report published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which slammed the government's flagship welfare reform for "shocking failures" that "wasted £140m" of taxpayer's money.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee, which published its 30th report into Duncan Smith's UC scheme, said the programme suffered from "alarmingly weak" management and argued that its implementation has been "extraordinarily poor".

The PAC also argued that the ministry had not developed a comprehensive plan to roll out the programme.