A £470 a year increase in Universal Credit has been branded “a bit of a joke” by residents struggling to make ends meet in Southend.

Speaking to MPs at his autumn statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed the Government would increase Universal Credit and other benefits by 6.7 per cent.

The rise, in line with September’s inflation figures, will come into force from April next year, and will be worth an “average increase of £470 for 5.5 million households”, the Chancellor said.

However, those struggling have claimed the increase will barely make a difference.

Aside from the Universal Credit increase, yesterday was branded the “biggest welfare reform in a decade” and Mr Hunt said claimants who do not find a job within 18 months will be forced to undergo “mandatory” work placements.

Those failing to comply with the rules face having their benefits cut off completely.

Emma Hayter, 31, lives with her partner, Darren Bailey, 47, and their eight-month-old child in Southend, with both parents being Universal Credit claimants due to health problems.

Emma said: “We are on universal credit, and it doesn’t stretch to cover the cost-of-living crisis, the rise is a little bit of a joke really.

“It’s only good if everybody is better off, or will people than must use it for rent arrears? Me and my partner must put money from his sick pay towards rent,” Emma said.

Partner, Darren, added: “I don’t know if it will do anything, we have been served a section 21 notice and we can afford where we are but what about the next property?

“We have to find a two-bed home and Universal Credit can only provide us £800, I have to take from my limited capability money to put on top of somewhere to move.

“I don’t think the government will put that extra £400 to every claimant, I don’t think it will cover the cost, there will still be suffering.”

Despite the negativity Daniel Cauchi, 48, centre manager for St Vincent’s charity in Southend, insisted that the cash will make a huge difference to those in need as demand rockets for food banks and support services.

He said: “I am absolutely ecstatic about the rise really because people are struggling, so many people can’t get a house because it is so tight in Southend, we are already short of house and the money side is another issue.

“I am getting more and more people coming through the door, obviously getting kicked out due to rent arrears and its really sad, it is really not enough and mental health is a big cause that is linked, we are leaving this too late, and I don’t think it’s really their fault.”