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Hundreds of Wiltshire teens are on Universal Credit

Hundreds of Wiltshire teens are on Universal Credit

Published by Mike Draper at 3:00am 2nd February 2020.

4 minute read

Take up across Wiltshire is falling despite the number of young claimants soaring elsewhere in the country.

Anti-poverty charities are urging the Government to do more to help vulnerable young people 'burdened' by low incomes and rising housing costs.

The warning comes as figures show there was a decrease in the number of teens in Wiltshire who sought support through Universal Credit as the system was rolled out in 2019.

According to data from the Department for Work and Pensions:

  • 526 young people aged between 16 and 19 claimed the benefit in November 2019
  • That's slightly down from the figure a year earlier when 529 teens received Universal Credit

That means Wiltshire is bucking the national trend.

Many areas elsewhere across Great Britain have been seeing a rise in the number of teens moving onto the flagship welfare system.

Roughly one in every 40 teenagers between 16 and 19 in Wiltshire were on Universal Credit last year, according to the latest population estimates. Of those who received the benefit, 76% were unemployed.

Money on a kitchen worktop.
526 Wiltshire teenagers 19 claimed Universal Credit benefit in November 2019

WHAT IS UNIVERSAL CREDIT?

  • Universal Credit is a a single monthly benefit payment
  • It replaces six older 'legacy' benefits including jobseekers' allowance and working tax credit
  • The Universal Credit system is supposed to be fully implemented by the end of 2023
  • It has been plagued by delays and allegations that it is plunging vulnerable people further into debt
  • Find out more about Universal Credit here

While the means-tested benefit is normally available to adults who are on a low income or out of work, young people aged 16 or 17 can claim Universal Credit for several reasons, including having no parental support, caring for a severely disabled person or being responsible for a child.

The Government has committed to ending a four-year benefit freeze in April this year, meaning millions of people will see their payments rise by the same rate as inflation.

Iain Porter, social security policy and partnerships manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:

"Our social security system should be an anchor, providing the stability and support that young people need.  The decision to end the benefits freeze is welcome, but it isn't enough to reverse the hardship already experienced by young people on low incomes. To avoid pushing people of all ages further into poverty, ministers must commit to ending the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment."

Sara Willcocks, head of communications at charity Turn2us, said:

"The minimum wage for under 18s can be as low as £4.35 per hour, so it is of little surprise that young people need welfare benefits to subsidise low pay."

She also said that many minimum wage jobs stem from a rise in zero-hour contracts and younger workers in the gig economy, and there are calls for the Government to tackle the housing crisis and ensure fairer rates of pay across the board.

Across Great Britain, more than 2.5 million people of all ages have been moved onto Universal Credit so far.

A DWP spokesman said the increase in 16 to 19 year olds claiming Universal Credit is "in line with expectations."

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