Universal Credit will go live in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire region in April 2013 - six months before the national roll-out.
The early roll out of the new benefit system is expected to see up to 1500 new Universal Credit claimants coming on stream across four areas - Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington - each month. It will test the new simpler, single benefit payment system with local authorities, employers and claimants in a live environment before Universal Credit is rolled out across the country in October 2013.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
"By sweeping away the complexities of the current benefit system, Universal Credit will be simpler and more straightforward for people to claim and this early roll out marks a significant step in the delivery of our welfare reforms.
"The early introduction of Universal Credit demonstrates our ongoing commitment to transforming the welfare system and will improve the lives of millions of claimants by incentivising work and making work pay."
Ministers have also confirmed that Universal Credit will be introduced across Britain, starting on a small scale in every region from October 2013 and building up capacity to April 2014, when all new claims to the current benefits and credits will be entirely phased out.
People who have recently lost their jobs and are closest to the labour market will be the first to make a claim for Universal Credit, with the majority making claims online rather than by telephone or face to face.