Soaring numbers of teenagers in Test Valley are being rolled onto the heavily criticised Universal Credit system, according to the latest figures.

Anti-poverty charities are urging the Government to do more to help vulnerable young people "burdened" by low incomes and rising housing costs.

New data from the Department for Work and Pensions reveals that 129 young people aged between 16 and 19 received Universal Credit in November.

That’s ​more than double the figure a year earlier, when just 60 teens received the benefit.

It comes as claimants are gradually rolled onto Universal Credit through the DWP's pilot 'migration' process.

Universal Credit replaces six legacy benefits – including jobseekers' allowance – with a single monthly payment.

The flagship welfare system will be fully implemented by the end of 2023, the Government said, after being plagued by delays and claims that it is plunging vulnerable people further into debt.

While the means-tested benefit is normally available to adults who are on a low income or out of work, young people aged 16 or 17 can claim Universal Credit for several reasons, including having no parental support, caring for a severely disabled person or being responsible for a child.

Roughly one in every 40 teenagers between 16 and 19 in Test Valley were on Universal Credit last year. Of those who received the benefit, 71% were unemployed.

The Government has committed to ending a four-year benefit freeze in April this year, meaning millions of people will see their payments rise by the same rate as inflation.

Iain Porter, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "Our social security system should be an anchor, providing the stability and support that young people need.

"The decision to end the benefits freeze is welcome, but it isn’t enough to reverse the hardship already experienced by young people on low incomes. To avoid pushing people of all ages further into poverty, ministers must commit to ending the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment."

Sara Willcocks, head of communications at charity Turn2us, said: "The minimum wage for under 18s can be as low as £4.35 per hour, so it is of little surprise that young people need welfare benefits to subsidise low pay."

She added that many minimum wage jobs stem from a rise in zero-hour contracts and younger workers in the gig economy, and called on the Government to tackle the housing crisis and ensure fairer rates of pay across the board.

Across Great Britain, more than 2.5 million people of all ages have been moved onto Universal Credit so far.

A DWP spokesman said the increase in 16 to 19 year olds claiming Universal Credit is "in line with expectations."

“Universal Credit is now rolled out to every jobcentre, so the number of people receiving it will increase naturally. Universal Credit rolled out to some areas earlier than others, so there are regional differences in the rate of uptake," they said.