More people in Dundee have been plunged into poverty since Universal Credit was rolled-out, according to a local charity.
Mike Cordiner, of Eagles Wings Trust, says many people in the city have fallen into debt as a result of the monthly payment system, which was introduced in November last year.
The Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has reported an 18% increase in the number of people seeking assistance with rent arrears between October last year and now.
Mr Cordiner said: “People are falling into debt, through no fault of their own. The Universal Credit system is unsustainable.
“We have folk using the food bank or soup kitchen who never needed help in the past.
“It does not surprise me that there has been an increase in the number of people seeking assistance from CAB.
“I think people are beginning to realise that something has to change, but I don’t know how.”
Universal Credit is paid monthly and includes money to help people cover their rent.
Tracy McNally, director of Dundee CAB, said: “The idea was to make the experience of budgeting feel the same as whether a household is in or out of work.
“Universal Credit also makes the assumption that claimants will have to get better at budgeting. However, if there are any unexpected expenditures, they are unlikely to have money put aside to deal with this. We have no local statistics available to evidence this is due to UC, but it does coincide with the roll–out in Dundee.”
Shelter Scotland reports that many people in the city seek debt advice in order to “help keep a roof over their heads”.
Alison Watson, deputy director, said: “Demand for our services in Dundee remains high and we hear every day from people on low incomes struggling to meet their housing costs. People are struggling because of the high cost of housing, stagnant wages, zero-hours contracts, harsh welfare reforms and the roll-out of the flawed Universal Credit system.”
A report published by Citizens Advice Scotland shows that, across the country, there has been a 47% increase in demand for advice on rent arrears between 2012 and last year.
The charity is now calling for a “halt and fix” to Universal Credit.
A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions said: “Rent arrears are complicated and they cannot be attributed to a single cause.
“Our research shows that many people join Universal Credit with pre-existing arrears, but the proportion falls by a third after four months.
“Managed payments to landlords are available as part of the Alternative Payment Arrangements in Universal Credit, to minimise the risk of claimants failing to pay their rent.
“We are rolling out the Universal Credit landlord portal to social landlords, which is helping us target support for vulnerable people.”