YORK couple Tony Carson and Sue Rimington - who had to live in a tent and survive on £4 a day for several weeks because of Universal Credit problems - have today handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street, calling for changes to the controversial benefit.

The 18,000 signature petition, organised by the End Hunger UK campaign, calls for urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for claimants, with more scope for telephone applications rather than just having to apply online.

It also calls for debt advice to be included as part of Universal Support, for a reduction in the waiting time for payments from five weeks to two and for payments to be increased in line with the real cost of living.

Another demand is for essential benefits, including disability benefits, to be restored, and levels to reach the cost of living.

Tony claimed Universal Credit did not work, adding: “It doesn’t help you get back on your feet, it traps you." Sue said the benefit was not the only cause of their problems but it had swept them further into difficulty.

The Department of Work and Pensions said Universal Credit replaced an 'out-of-date, complex benefits system which often trapped people in unemployment.'

It said an additional £4.5 billion was announced in the Budget to support claimants as they move onto it.

"This includes a 2 week ‘run on’ for those on legacy benefits and increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment starts reducing," said a spokeswoman.

“This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100 per cent, the 7-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional 2 weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.

"We have also announced a £39m partnership with Citizens Advice to provide Universal Support, which will help people make and manage their Universal Credit claim.

“The reasons for food poverty are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”