WORK and Pension secretary Esther McVey has admitted that government changes to the welfare system will make some families poorer.

The Tory minister’s comments contradict guarantees from Theresa May that those moving on to Universal Credit will be “protected”.

McVey’s remarks yesterday came after former Prime Ministers John Major and Gordon Brown warned that the changes could lead to a backlash similar to the poll-tax protests.

Reports last week suggested McVey had privately told Cabinet that the introduction of Universal Credit could cost lone parents and working-age couples around £2400 a year.

READ MORE: Universal Credit will cause 'poll tax-style chaos', says Gordon Brown

Yesterday the BBC asked McVey about the comments and she insisted the change would help people, but that she’s had to make “tough decisions”. “Some people will be worse off,” she said. “Under the old system, 700,000 people didn’t get £285 a month, so they didn’t get the money they were owed. Under the old system the most vulnerable in society weren’t getting as much money as we are now going to give them.”

During Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday, Theresa May told MPs: “We are putting in transitional protections for those people so that people who are moved on to Universal Credit as part of the process will not see any reduction—they will be protected.”

Universal Credit is meant to make work pay by only steadily removing as people gain more hours at work, rather than having cut-off points. Former Chancellor George Osborne took millions out of the benefit though for his 2015 to pay for an increase in the personal allowance.

Around 3.95 million more people will be affected by the changes due to come next July. The Resolution Foundation says about 3.2m households will be worse off by an average of about £50 a week.

Major, who replaced Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, nine months after the poll-tax protests, told the BBC: “I don’t oppose the principle of Universal Credit, [but] I think there is a real danger that it will be introduced too soon and in the wrong circumstances.

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“So I do think we need to look very carefully at how it is introduced and when it is introduced and what the circumstances are and the resources there are available to assist its introduction.”

He added: “In order to introduce something like universal credit, you need to look at those people who in the short term are going to lose, and protect them, or you will run into the sort of problems the Conservative party ran into in the late 1980s.”

SNP MP Drew Hendry said the roll-out needed to be scrapped.