Families are struggling to keep up with the widescale changes in the benefit system, with the biggest culprit the so-called bedroom tax, introduced a year ago this week.
The charity Christians Against Poverty warned yesterday that since the introduction of the spare room subsidy, one in 10 of its new clients has been struggling to pay off a housing benefit overpayment.
Families who have turned to the debt charity in the past 12 months had an average debt of £1,613 solely through housing benefit overpayment, while a third had rent arrears and four out of 10 had council tax arrears.
Matt Barlow, CAP's chief executive, said: “In the past year, we have seen a greater proportion of people coming to us with council tax and rent arrears. Clients, who are often already struggling with serious problems such as joblessness, relationship breakdown and illness, are finding it much harder to navigate the benefit system.
”Unless you have experienced it yourself, I think most of us don't imagine that the welfare changes regularly affect the same group of people several times over – and they can be the most vulnerable,“ he said.
Problems arise because many people don't know they have to keep the housing benefit office informed of income changes. Others, who may be moving in and out of work, face significant delays as local councils struggle to calculate the impact of tax credits and irregular wages.
”In the early days of the spare room subsidy, many clients who were nearing the end of their debt repayment were forced further back into debt while they search for that elusive smaller property,“ Mr Barlow added.