The government has rejected calls to halt the roll out of Universal Credit.
During oral questions to Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions yesterday, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP SNP, Banff and Buchan demanded the programme be stopped, claiming it was ‘simply not working’.
She said: “Rent arrears are soaring, claimants are waiting up to three months to have their claims processed and some people have even lost their homes.”
There claims are backed up by RLA research which found 25% of landlords with tenants claiming Universal Credit were reporting they had fallen into arrears.
In calling for the halt to the roll out of UC, she called on the government to launch “an immediate review”.
Responding, Work and Pensions Minister, Damian Hinds MP, rejected the calls.
He said: “It would be unfair and wrong to deprive people in Scotland or elsewhere of the advantages that the Universal Credit system brings.
“We continue to work on improving processes and accelerating delivery, including with respect to housing, and a number of improvements have already been made, with more in train.”
One of the main issues with the Universal Credit system is that it is paid monthly in arrears, with the first payments not being made until six weeks after the claim has been made.
Chi Onwurah MP, Labour, Newcastle Central, argued that her city “has paid a high price for being the first city to go full service with Universal Credit, with claims routinely lost, delayed or repeatedly deleted.”
She went on to argue that the six-week waiting period is doing the most “to drive so many into destitution and cause people to lose their home.”
She added: “With 80% of Newcastle council house tenants on Universal Credit now in rent arrears, will the Minister end the wait period, or will he explain how they are supposed to keep a roof over their head with no money?”
Responding, Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green MP, noted that the National Federation of ALMOs has calculated that “some 75% of tenants are in arrears under the legacy benefits, so she is not right in her suggestion.”
He added: “The idea that Universal Credit causes housing arrears is just nonsense.”
Melanie Onn MP, Labour, Great Grimsby – Member of the CLG Select Committee, asked what Ministers would say to a private landlord who came to see her with his tenant “with concerns about future eviction rates if there is no option under Universal Credit for rent to be paid directly to landlords?”
The Minister, Damian Hinds MP, responded by noting that there is a facility for rent to be paid directly to landlords “where necessary” and said that the Government is “streamlining the process for doing that.”
He added: “However, we think that the general principle is right that most people in receipt of Universal Credit should know what their housing liabilities are and pay their rent when they are out of work and when they are in work.”
To read the transcript of the oral questions and answers click here.