UNIVERSAL Credit claimants in Torfaen are struggling to keep up with their rent, it has been revealed.

Following the rollout of the scheme in December, Bron Afon have revealed that those claiming Universal Credit were £74,000 in arrears from the point that they first claimed Universal Credit.

Ian Simpson, Bron Afon’s director of community housing and support, said: “We have 1,433 (18 per cent) of our tenants claiming Universal Credit (as of December 3, 2018).

“Unfortunately, this has added £74,000 of arrears from the point that they first claimed Universal Credit.

“This is an average of £67 per tenant which would not have otherwise arisen.

“We feel we have been relatively successful in helping tenants manage the change compared to other areas.

“This is because we are fortunate to be part of an effective partnership led by Torfaen Council to mitigate the impact of the government’s welfare reforms.

“We have been getting our tenants ready ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit and providing support every step of the way.”

By early December, the Universal Credit service had reached all of the Wales’ 59 job centres, replacing the previous six legacy benefits with one monthly payment.

For people who are able to work, Universal Credit provides tailored employment support.

Payments reduce gradually the more someone earns, meaning people can take on more hours without fear of seeing their benefits suddenly stop entirely.

However, the system has been highly criticised.

At a Caerphilly full council meeting in December, it was revealed that more than half of Universal Credit claimants living in Caerphilly county borough are struggling with rent payments.

Councillors were told that “over 50 per cent” of the 400 council tenants that had applied for the new benefits system were already in rent arrears since it was introduced into the area.

But Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd has continued to back the scheme.

She said: “Universal Credit is working for the vast majority of people, and in Wales we’ve seen almost 200,000 more people move into work since 2010. However, I will continue to monitor closely and make improvements where needed.”

There is support available for Bron Afon residents who are struggling to pay their rent.

Mr Simpson added: “If any tenants are having difficulties with their claim or rent payment, we want them to contact us straightaway on 01633 620111, social media or bronafon.org.uk so we can help.”