A woman claiming benefits was left to live on just £36 a week after moving on to the Government’s new welfare payment, Universal Credit.

The Haringey resident was originally told she should receive £73.10 in Universal Credit payments per week after her first interview with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But she had been given an advance payment to help her get by while waiting for her first proper payment – and she would have to pay that back.

On top of that, she had previously been paid too much housing benefit, and the DWP wanted to reclaim the money.

The case was revealed by Sean Gardiner, financial inclusion manager at Homes for Haringey, at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday (November 25).

It came during a discussion of the impact of Universal Credit on council housing tenants.

Universal Credit, which combines six previously separate welfare payments into one monthly lump sum, was launched by the Government in 2013 and is still being rolled out across Haringey.

Mr Gardiner said the woman would have been left to live on just £13 per month if the council had not intervened and secured better repayment terms.

He explained that her income had previously changed “every month or two” and she had not kept the Government departments responsible for paying housing benefit and tax credits up to date, as she was required to do.

Mr Gardiner said: “They closed the benefit and tax credit accounts, she had an advance on her Universal Credit as well, and she had rent arrears with us before she went onto Universal Credit.

“Every one of those organisations had put into the DWP to pay something towards their arrears.

“When the DWP quite legally and correctly calculated it, it meant for the next three months, while we took most of her allowance to repay, she would get nearly all her rent paid to us – but she would then have £13 per month to live on for the next three months.”

Mr Gardiner said he had waived the collection of rent arrears for six months and asked the tenant’s other creditors to consider longer repayment periods.

He said: “In the end, I worked it up from £13 per month to something like £130. But that took several conversations between me and the overall manager for Belfast decision-making [in the DWP].”

A report by Tracey Downie, Homes for Haringey’s interim head of income management, says the council had 1,529 tenants receiving Universal Credit as of October 21.

But Mr Gardiner told the meeting that had now climbed to 1,622 tenants.

He added that the total rent arrears owed to the council had risen by nearly £1 million since the roll-out of Universal Credit – meaning the total debt owed to the council is now around £2 million.

Ms Downie’s report adds: “Information from our tenants indicates that their income has generally reduced since they have been in receipt of Universal Credit and many are finding it difficult to manage.

“Our income teams are issuing more vouchers for tenants to gain access to local food banks to assist tenants requiring additional support.”

Councillors pointed out the report only highlights the impact of Universal Credit on council tenants, and there is also a large number of claimants living in privately rented accommodation who may be finding it even harder to make ends meet.