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More than a third on Universal Credit in work

By Mark Andrews | Bridgnorth | Politics | Published:

More than 1,300 workers across Shropshire and Mid Wales are claiming Universal Credit as their low wages are not enough to live on.

Charities say that the 'shocking' number of in-work applicants is due to low wages and housing costs.

Most of these were in the Shropshire Council area, where figures from the Department of Work and Pensions showed that there were 855 working people claiming the benefit during May this year, accounting for 38 per cent of claimants.

In Telford & Wrekin there were 361 employed claimants, more than a third of the total number, while in Powys the figure was 167, representing 41 per cent of those in receipt of the benefit.

Overall, there were a total of 3,333 people claiming the benefit across the county, and 412 in Powys.

The majority of these, 2,280, were in the Shropshire Council area, an increase of 25 per cent compared to the previous month, while the number in Telford & Wrekin fell by 49 to 1,053. The number in Powys was down by four compared to the previous month.

Universal Credit is a new benefit, which is gradually being expanded across the country by the Government, which might explain the sharp increase in the number of claimants in Shropshire.

The benefit replaces income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credits, and working tax credits, merging them into one payment.

The idea of Universal Credit was to simplify the benefits system and ensure that people in work are always better off.

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However problems with its introduction have reportedly forced benefit claimants into hardship.

The plan was for the whole of the UK to be covered by it by the end of last year, but a serious glitches led to the Government putting the completion date back until 2023.

Pritie Billimoria, from Turn2us, a charity which helps people who are struggling financially, said it was 'shocking' that such a high number of workers earned so little they were forced to rely on benefits.

“Every day we hear from working people who are living hand to mouth and facing impossible decisions about whether to buy food or pay their rent," she said.

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“We know that the rise of in-work poverty and in-work claimants is complicated. Households are dealing with low pay, the rising cost of living and changes to welfare support, which are all having a compounding effect on the daily lives of families across the UK.

“Work needs to be a route out of poverty so people are not left dealing with the intolerable stress and anxiety that their wages don’t cover their basic costs of living.”

Katie Schmuecker of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Low pay and high costs for housing and other essentials mean that for many, work is not providing enough to live on and the social security system needs to provide an anchor against being swept into poverty.

"As well as tackling the cost of living, the Government should act to restore the work allowance for claimants of Universal Credit so that people in work can keep more of what they earn."

At the moment, just over a million people on the benefit, but the Department for Work and Pensions estimates 8.5 million will be receiving it by the time it covers the whole country.

Nationally, 37 per cent of the claimants were in work, the highest percentage being in Mid Sussex, where workers represented 49.1 per cent of the total. The lowest proportion was in Birmingham, with just 29 per cent.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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