A WHOPPING 120,000 Universal Credit claimants are behind on their rent, while more than 500 have been evicted from their homes, new research reveals.
Universal Credit claimants owe a combined £84.5million or £681 on average in rent – more than twice the amount people on the old housing benefit system owe at £285.
1 Universal Credit claimants are more likely to be in rent arrears than those on housing benefitCredit: Getty Images – Getty
That’s according to figures obtained by JPI Media (which owns the i as well as some regional newspapers) through Freedom of Information requests to 145 local authorities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
Its research also reveals that 92 percent of Northern Ireland’s Housing Executive tenants on Universal Credit are now in rent arrears, compared with 40 percent of people on housing benefit.
Meanwhile, UK-wide evictions of Universal Credit claimants from council houses reached an all-time high in 2018/19 of 514 – although they were higher still for housing benefit claimants at 954.
The findings follow research from Citizens Advice that found that half of Brits on Universal Credit have fallen behind on their rent after waiting up to five-weeks for their first payment.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit WorkUNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
The Sun has called for the five-week wait for cash to be reduced to two weeks as part of its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t believe the figures are comparative, saying people on housing benefit will have had longer to pay off debts than those just moving over to Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is the Government’s flagship benefits programme that sees former benefits, including housing benefit, rolled-up into one monthly payment.
Under this system, tenants usually have to make rent payments directly to their landlords unless they’ve been identified as struggling to do this themselves.
This differs from housing benefit where rent is paid directly from the DWP to landlords.
But how rent payments are made could be overhauled after the DWP admitted that claimants were left out of pocket because of the way the benefit is calculated.
Hugh Owen, director of strategy and public affairs for Riverside, one of Britain’s biggest providers of social housing, says Universal Credit is increasing rent arrears. The firm is also calling for the five-week wait for payments to be cut.
He said: “While we have always welcomed the simplicity that moving to an integrated benefit such as Universal Credit is intended to bring, the way it is being implemented in practice means that Universal Credit is causing hardship and debt for many of our tenants.
“Arrears for our tenants claiming Universal Credit are more than three and a half times higher than those who are not claiming Universal Credit with average arrears of £666 for Universal Credit claimants compared to £185 for those households not in receipt of Universal Credit.
“High levels of rent arrears increases the risk of homelessness, especially in the private rented sector.
“We would like to see an end to the five-week waiting period for Universal Credit because we know this is pushing people into debt and arrears.”
A DWP spokesman said: “We completely disagree with this analysis which compares fundamentally different claimant groups.
“Many people claim Universal Credit after a significant life event and will join with pre-existing arrears.
“While those on legacy benefits are likely to have been claiming for a longer period, with arrears having reduced over time.
“Research shows that the number of people joining Universal Credit with arrears falls by a third after four months.”
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The Sun is also calling for childcare funding to be paid upfront to parents under Universal Credit.
While we also want people to keep more of what they earn by lowering the taper rate and increasing the work allowance.
Earlier this week we warned struggling families to beware a new Universal Credit scam that stops people’s benefits.
Universal Credit bosses accused of holding 10,000 people to ransom after they lost money by switching benefits
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