RESIDENTS face “very difficult times” and are being encouraged to move into smaller homes due to the financial distress caused by changes to the benefits system in York.

And a charity warned the roll out of Universal Credit is pushing people deeper into poverty in the city.

More than 5,000 further residents are set to be transferred from the current housing benefits system on to Universal Credit which will put pressure on support services across the city, according to a council report.

It says: “Officers have supported tenants through some very difficult times encouraging tenants to downsize to help with their financial distress and encouraging payment by direct debit.”

It goes on to warn that the current strain on support services caused by Universal Credit is “insignificant” compared to how bad it will be once everybody who is eligible is transferred on to the controversial system.

“The current Universal Credit cohort are customers who move in and out of work, are younger and are used to the digital technology required to avoid Universal Credit sanctions,” it says.

“The core housing benefit customers have only known housing benefit, do not receive rental payments directly and approximately 40 per cent are one parent families.

“The pressure that has already been felt across the advice sector by partners and via financial relief schemes available... will potentially seem insignificant compared to what may happen at full transition.”

It adds that there are currently 1,223 council households on Universal Credit in the city, owing more than £447,000 in rent on council properties.

And there was a “significant increase” in people receiving urgent extra money to help them meet their housing costs.

Niall Cooper, chair of the national End Hunger UK campaign, is calling for the Government to listen to people’s stories about the hardship they face under the scheme.

He said: “This report shows that Universal Credit is not working as it should, but is instead sweeping many people into deeper poverty and debt, and placing severe strain on local support services.

“All of us working on the End Hunger UK campaign have heard stories around the country, including in York, of people waiting for weeks with no money, falling into food poverty and becoming trapped in difficult situations as a result of flaws in the Universal Credit system.

“The Government needs to listen to people’s first-hand accounts and fix Universal Credit, including by ending the five-week wait for first payments.”