Hundreds of Falkirk teenagers claiming Universal Credit

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Hundreds of teenagers in Falkirk have sought support through Universal Credit, according to the latest figures.

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

New data from the Department for Work and Pensions reveals that 377 young people aged between 16 to 19 claimed the benefit in November​.

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​That’s a 38 per cent increase on​ the year before, when 273 teens received Universal Credit.

The flagship welfare system will be fully implemented by the end of 2023, the Government said, after being plagued by delays and allegations that it is plunging vulnerable people further into debt.

It means six legacy benefits - including jobseekers’ allowance and working tax credit - will be replaced with a single monthly Universal Credit payment.

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.

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Roughly one in every 18 teenagers between 16 and 19 in Falkirk were on Universal Credit last year, according to the latest population estimates. Of those who received the benefit, 82 per cent were unemployed.

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.”

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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.”

“Universal Credit is now rolled out to every jobcentre, so the number of people receiving it will increase naturally. Universal Credit rolled out to some areas earlier than others, so there are regional differences in the rate of uptake,” they said.