DISABLED benefit claimants in the North-East will be among the first to receive the Government's new personal independence payment (PIP), it was announced today.

Ministers are scrapping the disability living allowance handout for two million people of working age and replacing it with the PIP which will involve an individual assessment in a bid to cut down on overpayments.

But amid wrangling as the Welfare Reform Bill went through Parliament earlier this year, the Department of Work and Pensions agreed to stagger its introduction.

Disabled People Minister Maria Miller said today: "To ensure a smooth introduction, the launch will be undertaken through a phased approach, commencing initially with a subset of new claimants.

"This will ensure processes and procedures are working fully before moving to process all new claims and then reassessing existing disability living allowance."

In a written Commons statement, she said the Bootle Benefit Centre would administer the first new claims from next spring for recipients in Merseyside, north west England, Cumbria, Cheshire and the North-East.

She said it would provide a robust test of the PIP processes and new computer systems set-up to handle the claims before it is rolled out across the country.

A DWP spokesman said: "Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is an outdated benefit with the vast majority of people getting it for life without systematic checks to see if their condition has changed.

"This has led to hundreds of millions of pounds in overpayments.

"We are replacing DLA with the personal independence payment and introducing a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews, to make sure support is going to those who need it most.

"We are moving forward with the next stage of our reforms and a lot of work has been carried out to ensure a sensible phased introduction.

"Under PIP support will be focused on those who need it most, with a greater proportion getting the higher rates compared to DLA."