Pressure mounts to halt flawed Universal Credit

Universal-credit-collecting-the-rent

Criticism from campaigners, charities and politicians could force government to rethink controversial policy 

18th September 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Government ministers are under pressure to halt Universal Credit as criticism of the system continues.

A dossier detailing concerns from landlords, councils and charities about universal credit (UC) has been handed to a parliamentary inquiry investigating the programme.

It comes as the new payment system gears up for an accelerated roll-out in October which campaigners fear could leave those on low incomes destitute.

Inherent problems with the system including delayed payments are being exacerbated by the fact people already being paid benefits through UC are raking up unmanageable debts.

One national newspaper reported that marriages had broken down as a result of the extra pressures of waiting for payments, while some landlords are now choosing not to accept tenants on universal credit.

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that half of all council tenants across 105 local authorities who receive the housing element of universal credit – which replaces housing benefit – are at least a month behind on their rent, with 30% two months behind.

The Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food bank network, said that it had come across “instances of people referred to food banks having to wait for far longer periods [than six weeks], including up to 10 and 13 weeks” for their first payment. It also reported four recent instances of people dealing with the breakdown of marriages due to financial pressure.

The system brings together all payments as one and is the first fully online payments system from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

UC sends rent payments to claimants instead of landlords - a policy that has led to debt problmes for both claimants and social housing providers. 

Scottish Government ministers have already said they will give payments directly to landlords and pay UC fortnightly instead of monthly.   

David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, may be open to slowing down the programme should the department’s latest data show up problems.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Universal credit is getting more people into work than the old system. It mirrors the way most people in work are paid, helping to ease the transition into employment.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their budgets, and for people who need extra support, advance payments are available.”

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