More than half of Universal Credit claimants have money “deducted” from their benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), new figures have shown.
Figures released in response to a Parliamentary written question on Wednesday showed that 53% of Universal Credit claimants had some of their benefits payments deducted in October 2018.
A deduction is made from Universal Credit payments when claimants have outstanding debts with their utility companies or landlord.
The money deducted from the allowance is used to pay debts the claimant owes.
A deduction is different from a sanction, which is a reduction made in Universal Credit payment made as a punishment when the claimant fails to fulfil the requirements of receiving benefits in the UK.
The figures show that 532,000 Universal Credit claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.
Six thousand claimants had reductions of 40% of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40%.
October’s statistics show a sharp rise in deductions compared to figures obtained by FOI in August 2018 by The Guardian newspaper, which showed one-third of claimants at that time saw money deducted from their payments.
In May 2017, just one in 10 claimants had their payments deducted, the figures said.
The latest release was requested by Frank Field MP, who is chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.
He has previously been outspoken on the issue of benefit deductions, describing them as “a main supply route to food banks” and calling on energy companies to write off the debts of their customers who cannot afford to pay.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “When claimants have housing or utility arrears, we make deductions from their benefits to help pay off debts and keep them in their homes.
“Safeguards are in place to ensure that deductions are affordable.”