BENEFITS claimants in Torfaen have faced a series of problems since the introduction of Universal Credit, with some waiting hours on the telephone for help and advice, an AM has said.

The system, which replaces six separate benefits into a single payment, has been plagued with problems since the UK Government began introducing it in 2013, with some facing waiting weeks before receiving a penny.

It was fully rolled out in Torfaen in July 2017 - before anywhere else in Gwent.

And, speaking in the Assembly yesterday, Tuesday, Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle said constituents had reported a series of problems since then.

"We have seen people waiting six to eight weeks for payment, an increase in debt and rent arrears, more and more people needing to use food banks and a Universal Credit helpline where people are literally waiting hours to speak to a member of staff," she said.

"I believe the local record in Torfaen is four hours, with most people, especially vulnerable people, giving up in that time."

Although she praised public services such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau and housing associations in helping claimants with their issues, the Labour AM said the only solution was to scrap the scheme entirely.

Addressing Carwyn Jones she said: "Will you also join me in calling the UK Government to recognise that it's time to stop this now and sort out these problems before it causes any more suffering?"

Replying, the first minister said: "It's quite clear to me and to many in this chamber that Universal Credit is it currently stands has not worked.

"And it's absolute crucial, where there is a problem, that that problem is sorted rather than sorting it after more people have suffered, and that's unfortunately the situation we find ourselves in now."

But Conservative South Wales East AM Mohammad Asghar defended the policy, saying a study carried out for the Department for Work and Pensions found an increased number of claimants finding paid work.

"Universal Credit is tackling ingrained worklessness in areas such as Torfaen and that, as a result, people are moving into work faster," he said.

But Mr Jones said he remained convinced the system should be "halted and reversed".