There's an amusement here as well as a missing number:
One in three people on the government’s new welfare system are having their payments cut to cover debts, the Observer can reveal.
In a sign of the troubling levels of indebtedness affecting some of the most impoverished communities, official figures show that hundreds of thousands of universal credit payments are being subject to deductions used to pay back arrears in rent, council tax and utility bills.
The amusement being that a critique of universal credit was that it took too long to arrive, that first payment. So, a system of advance payments was instituted, those advance payments obviously enough being clawed back. Now the complaint is about their being clawed back. Quite why we're not sure, we don't think any demand that people should gain more than their allotment of benefits is going to be popular.
The missing number is this:
Up to 40% of a standard monthly universal credit payment can be deducted – a higher proportion than under the old benefits system.
That old benefits system. It too had a system of clawbacks for overpayments. There were 6 benefits too meaning that it's obviously possible that even if each had a lower number of clawbacks a greater portion of the claimant population were subject to them.
Which is our missing number of course. What was the portion of claimants subject to clawbacks under the old system compared to the new? That is, are things getting better or worse? That is what we want to know isn't it? Are we moving in the right direction?
Or perhaps not, perhaps it is true that we're just looking for something, anything, to complain about.