MORE than 173,000 people are now receiving University Credit in the east of England, new figures have revealed.

The numbers, released by the Department of Work and Pensions, show 4,560 people are claiming the new benefit in Colchester as of the end of July.

In Tendring there are 5,619 claimants and in Braintree there are 4,625.

The new benefit system has now officially been rolled out at all jobcentres across the country, with the numbers of claimants is expected to rise further over the coming months.

Will Quince, Colchester's MP and Minister for Welfare Delivery, said: "Behind these figures are thousands of people getting tailored employment support to either find a job or increase their hours.

“Universal Credit is a force for good – it’s simpler, more flexible and is helping people into work quicker than the old system.

"Crucially, it adjusts to people’s monthly earnings so there are no disincentives to working."