FEWER people are now claiming unemployment benefits in Bracknell than before the roll-out of Universal Credit, new figures reveal.

Across Great Britain, the number of claimants has fallen, with anti-poverty charity Turn2us warning that the switch over masks a "failing" benefits system.

Department for Work and Pensions statistics show 1,224 people in Bracknell Forest claimed out-of-work benefits in August.

This was up 23 per cent from last year, but still 15 per cent fewer than in 2014, the earliest available data after the introduction of Universal Credit.

Across the South East, there were 123,380 claimants in August – representing a 13 per cent fall over the five-year period.

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David Samson, welfare benefit specialist at Turn2us, said: "If people aren't claiming out-of-work benefits because they are receiving high pay in meaningful work, then that is fantastic.

"But if the claimant count is low because the DWP has created a hostile, complex or intimidating environment, then that is troubling.

"From what people with lived experience are telling us, the roll-out of Universal Credit is linked to rising rent arrears, increasing debt and soaring foodbank use. This is damning for the Government.

"There are a number of things the DWP can immediately do to rectify this situation, such as end the benefits freeze, scrap the five-week wait for Universal Credit and adequately fund our welfare system so people can thrive."

The latest figures model employment trends since 2013. They cover people claiming the old-style Jobseeker’s Allowance, and those required to look for work under the Universal Credit system brought in gradually between 2013 and 2018.

Any trends seen in the data, the DWP says, reflect how the economy performs, rather than the switch from one benefits system to another.

Unemployment in Bracknell Forest also rose last year, the figures show, from 1.3 per cent of the workforce to 1.6 per cent.

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Nationally, 1.3 million people currently claim unemployment benefits – that's 3.1 per cent of the population aged 16 to 64.

The rate has fallen slightly since 2014, when it was 3.9 per cent.

Employment minister Mims Davies said: "Unemployment remains at less than 4 per cent, and it's important to remember that these latest figures should be balanced against the huge jobs growth in recent years, with over 3.6 million more people in work since 2010 and compared to this time last year we have seen a rise of over 280,000 more people in work, the vast majority of whom are women.

"Our network of over 600 Jobcentres stand ready for those who need additional personalised support to take up some of the 800,000 vacancies still available across the UK."