FOUR women bringing a High Court challenge over the Government's Universal Credit scheme say they are struggling financially because of the way the system operates.

The women, including a Keighley dinnerlady, are all working single mothers. They argue that a "fundamental problem" with the controversial welfare scheme means their monthly payments vary "enormously" and they end up out of pocket.

The court heard today they are struggling to manage their household budgets as a result and some have fallen into debt or had to rely on food banks.

One of the women, Danielle Johnson, works part time as a dinner lady and receives Universal Credit to top up her income.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, the 25-year-old, from Keighley, said: "I have never been this financially unstable before, to the point of being unable to afford my rent and having to go into my overdraft when buying food.

"It is getting me into a vicious cycle of debt.

"Universal Credit is supposed to be simpler and fairer, but my experience of it is the opposite.

"I'm doing my best working part-time to make ends meet so that I can look after my daughter.

"I thought the Government was supposed to help and support people like me trying to get back to work but I have found it to be the opposite."

Ms Johnson's lawyers said she is about £500-a-year worse off and struggles to budget in months where she receives no benefit because of the way the system operates.

Lawyers for the four said the problem is likely to affect "tens of thousands of people" claiming Universal Credit, which was introduced to replace means-tested benefits including income support and housing benefit.

They say the system disproportionately affects single parents, who are mainly female.

Government lawyers said the Universal Credit programme is considered to be the "largest and most ambitious state reform of welfare provision for generations" and will be the main source of welfare payments for 6.5 million households.

Edward Brown, for the DWP, said the department is aware of the issue with payment dates and the matter "remains under review" as part of the scheme's rollout.

He said: "The Secretary of State (for Work and Pensions) recognises and understands the two payments issue, but a complaint of unfairness, however compelling that complaint might be on the facts of an individual case, does not mean the system and underlying legislation is unlawful."

The case continues.