Blackburn MP Kate Hollern is calling for a reform of the system after alarming figures reveal universal credit repayments are ‘trapping’ families into a cycle of debt.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that Blackburn has the highest number of children living in universal credit households in East Lancashire.

Out of 13,600 children living in universal credit households in Blackburn, more than half (7,000) are on repayment plans which can be deducted for energy bills and other debt, to a repayment of the ‘advance loan’.

The advance loan is taken out by many families to survive the five-week wait for their first payment, but the subsequent deductions from their future benefits often leads to further financial hardship.

Daisy Dumsday, communication coordinator and local organiser at Blackburn Foodbank, said: “The advance payment loans offered within the Universal Credit system are problematic and, frankly, irresponsible. These deductions force individuals into a cycle of dependency on services just like ours.

“It is obvious that the current approach to the payment of Universal Credit needs reconsideration, with a focus on ensuring that those in a vulnerable financial position are not forced further into instability by the system they believed would help them.”

Of the 6,900 children living in universal credit households in Rossendale and Darwen, 57 per cent are on repayment plans, making it the highest proportion of families ‘trapped’ in universal credit debt in East Lancashire.

It is a slightly lower proportion for Blackburn (51 per cent), but the repayments can add up to an average of £76 a month, a significant 45 per cent of their entitlement that could be used on essentials for children.

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern states that Universal Credit is in urgent need of reform. She said: “Measures such as an end to five-week waits for a first payment, a pause to deductions to allow families some breathing space, or a reduction in the maximum rate at which deductions can be taken would all serve to ease the burden on families.

“The current system sees the poorest being pursued for money that they do not have, which prevents them from spending it on essentials, and traps them in a cycle of debt. The worst-off are being hit hardest by this punitive system in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

“Blackburn has the highest number of children in universal credit households in East Lancashire and it is, tragically, often children who end up paying the price for this broken system.”