Universal Credit causing ‘considerable hardship’ for council housing tenants

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In a joint report, published today, the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) call on Government to halt to the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) and remove the 7 day wait period for new claims.

Together, the NFA and ARCH, who represent over a million council homes, voice strong concerns at the Government’s plans to accelerate the roll out UC despite evidence of the considerable hardship it is causing to tenants and communities.

The report tracks the impact of welfare reforms on landlords and tenants, highlighting how problems associated with the UC rollout identified in previous research remain unresolved.

Almost four years on from the initial introduction of UC in October 2013 the research shows that delays in the UC assessment process, poor communications between DWP and landlords, and the 7 day waiting period continue to cause significant problems to both landlords and their tenants.

Other issues such as digital access also present problems for 50-65yr old claimants.

The research found that almost three in four UC claimants (73%) have “stubbornly high” rent arrears, totaling £6.68 million, while 40% of families with no previous problems paying their rent are being driven into debt and accumulating rent arrears as a direct consequence of claiming UC.

Furthermore, households already struggling to pay rent at the time of claiming UC are being pushed into even greater debt, with average rent arrears increasing from £611.73 in March 2016 to £772.21 in March 2017.

Both NFA and ARCH say they support the principles of UC, that is encourages individual responsibility, and are developing new practices to support UC claimants and those with the greatest needs.

However, they argue that support provided to tenants by landlords alone is not sufficient to resolve the problems UC claimants face, and call on the government to pause its roll-out until “the system works properly”.

Eamon McGoldrick, NFA Managing Director said: “We are strongly urging Government/DWP to halt the roll out of UC and ‘Pause for thought’ – until the system works properly for both claimants and landlords.

“Our members are supportive of the principles of UC and are willing to work with the DWP to find solutions to the problems identified within our survey.

“In the meantime we are calling on government to restrain its ambition to accelerate roll out UC over the course of 2017/18 and remove the 7 day wait period.”

John Bibby, Chief Executive ARCH added: “If the level of intensive support needed to [help] vulnerable tenants is to be sustained during the planned rollout additional resources are essential.

“Councils and ALMOs are therefore calling on Government to create a Transition Funding Pot to enable councils and landlords to effectively manage the rollout of UC and adequately support vulnerable tenants.

“Without this, increasing numbers of vulnerable households will drop through the net.”