MORE than 150 workers in Powys are claiming in-work benefits as their low wages are not enough to live on, according to new government figures.

Charities say that the “shocking” number of in-work applicants claiming under the new “universal credit” scheme is due to low wages and housing costs.

According to Department for Work and Pensions figures, there were 167 employed claimants in Powys on Universal Credit (UC) in July 2018, which is about 41 per cent of the total.

Universal Credit is a new benefit, gradually being rolled out by the UK government, which replaces income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credits and working tax credits. The full roll-out of UC is due to take place in Powys in October.

Powys County Council anti-poverty champion Joy Jones said the figures made for “worrying reading”.

“With the full rollout of universal credit coming closer for Powys residents there are many people concerned regarding the impact it will have on our county,” she said.

“We have had some families already receiving this benefit that was supposed to be easy for people to access but the sad fact is that it has had many problems leaving people without money and having to wait long periods of time to receive their benefits. This has already had an added impact on the food banks in some areas.”

The idea of Universal Credit was to simplify the benefits system, however problems with its introduction have reportedly forced benefit claimants into hardship.

The plan was to roll it out by 2017, but a series of management failures meant the government has put off the completion until 2023.

“Often people get the wrong impression why people are on benefits and assume it is because they don’t want to work but often this is not the case,” added Cllr Jones.

“I would encourage anyone who is struggling to speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau or to the food banks as they are able to signpost you to where you can get support. “

Pritie Billimoria, from Turn2us, a charity which helps people who are struggling financially, said it was “shocking” that such a high number of workers earn so little that they are 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.

“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.”

By 2024, about 8.5 million people are due to receive Universal Credit, according to the DWP’s estimates.

The figures show nationally, 37% of the 1 million UC claimants in July were in work.