Further problems with Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit scheme have emerged today, as figures show that the DWP is so desperate to make the new benefit work that they’ll even pay your rent for you.
Labour MP Frank Field has claimed that he has seen official DWP figures which show that more than half of the 70 pathfinder participants in one area had rent payments made directly to their landlords.
A doubling of average rent arrears to £942 for Universal Credit claimants in a pathfinder project in Warrington, Cheshire, left the DWP will little option other than to pay rent payments directly to housing providers, rather than Universal Credit claimants themselves.
Frank Field MP said the figures were worrying because the pilot only included single people, who had no real social problems or difficult circumstances.
A spokesperson for the DWP said: “We discuss budgeting support with ALL claimants of UC. But we also have safeguards in place with clear arrangements where payments for vulnerable people can be made direct to landlords.
“Where an alternative payment arrangement is appropriate, and we have the necessary details, it will be paid within five days.
“78% of claimants from UC pathfinder areas feel confident about their ability to budget with monthly payments, and we have increased budgeting support for claimants under UC.”
Responding to Frank Field’s concerns about Universal Credit, the spokesperson said: “These suggestions are based on a small sample of claimants presenting a skewed picture. The reality is rent arrears aren’t new under universal credit and it is inaccurate to suggest otherwise. Recent research shows that around 50% of housing association tenants in England were in arrears before UC was introduced.
“Furthermore, the National Housing Federation has acknowledged that we have delivered real service improvements with increased support to help people adjust to budgeting and more protection for landlords. With the vast majority of people saying they are coping well with direct payments.
“Universal credit is already making work pay as we roll it out in a careful and controlled way. It is transforming people’s lives in a growing number of areas, including 39 Jobcentres, and we have started taking claims from couples too. By the end of this year, around one in eight Jobcentres will offer universal credit.”
Figures released earlier this month (August) show that just 6,570 people were claiming Universal Credit by the end of May 2014. The majority of those people were male and under 25. In total 8,500 people have made a claim for the new benefit between April 2013 and 31 May 2014.
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