MORE than 10,000 people in the Swindon area are claiming the controversial universal credit – a figure that Swindon Labour has called shocking.

New statistics from the Department of Work & Pensions reveal that 10,472 people in Swindon receive the payment out of almost 178,000 recipients in the south west.

The rollout of the controversial system, which combines six benefits into one monthly payment, has been heavily criticised by charities such as the Trussel Trust and from parents and carers in Swindon who have reported falling into rent arrears due to delays to payments.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Swindon Sarah Church said: “I am shocked that over 10,000 people are having to claim this under the Tories, that’s higher than I thought.

“The number of people in work who cannot afford a home of the basics to stay out of poverty has risen as a result of punishing Tory policy choices.

“It’s a confusing system that leaves people short of money when paying for rent or childcare to allow them to get out and work.

“More than 500,000 children in the UK live in poverty, 70 per cent of which have a working parent.

“Making work pay would mean increasing the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 per hour and ending precarious zero-hours contracts.

"These are positive policies to make work pay that Labour will implement once in government.”

North Swindon MP and Minister of State at the DWP Justin Tomlinson said: “It is simply because Swindon was one of the first areas to start the universal credit rollout so other areas will catch up.

Unemployment rate still remains at 30-year low with more than 11,000 more people in work in Swindon since 2010.”

Swindon Jobcentre manager Julie Marshall said: “We cover a very big area that takes in outlying villages as far as Faringdon and our stats include people on universal credit who are not looking for work.

“A lot of people on universal credit are working and we are just topping them up a small amount.”

Earlier this year, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd admitted that universal credit was one factor behind the increase in food bank use.