The UK government has rolled out its controversial welfare scheme Universal Credit despite criticism that the programme is in crisis.

The programme is designed to simplify the social security system by merging six-means tested benefits, including working tax credits and housing benefit, into one by 2017.

The new benefit is now available to claimants at job centres in Hammersmith and Fulham, but it has been postponed in five other areas, including Rugby, Harrogate and Bath, which will join the scheme by the spring of next year.

The new measure means claimants will have four face-to-face interviews with their Work Coach within the first two weeks of their Universal Credit claim - the first lasting an hour and a half.

Minister for Welfare Lord Freud said that "a driving principle behind Universal Credit is that the transition between being out of work and in work should be straightforward; people should not be scared of taking work."

The Department for Work & Pensions said that eventually there will be eight million households on the new credit.

The government has also pledged to boost support for jobseekers by improving access to digital services.

The DWP said 6,000 new computers will be installed for claimants to use.

But in September, Liam Byrne, Labour's then Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, slammed the government's flagship welfare reform.

"David Cameron's failing programmes are driving up the costs of social security. Universal Credit is in crisis, Atos is out of control and now the Work Programme doesn't work. Iain Duncan Smith must be the worst welfare secretary in living memory: Is there anything left for him to bungle?" Byrne claimed.