The Welsh Local Government Association has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, David Gauke MP calling for the rollout of Universal Credit to be paused.
In those areas of Wales where UC has already been rolled out, Flintshire and Torfaen to date, delays have been reported which have led to claimants finding themselves in financial difficulties whilst waiting for claims to be processed and their first payments to be received.
Writing in a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on behalf of Housing Cabinet Members, WLGA spokesperson for Housing Councillor Aaron Shotton (Flintshire) said: “Local authority areas where Universal Credit has already rolled out have reported delays in receiving payments which were impacting on tenants’ ability to pay rent and meet their full rental costs, and increasing levels of anxiety and worry about the new system, leading to increased stress and tensions in the family.
“Welsh Cabinet Members for Housing met recently and discussed the increasing number of families and individuals at risk of homelessness and seeking help, support and assistance, particularly in meeting their housing costs and in the main due to changes in the welfare benefit system.
“This is despite the progressive legislation in Wales, under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, and the focus on preventing homelessness.”
A significant number of people have had to wait six weeks before receiving their payment, and some claimants having to wait up to12 weeks, leaving them with little or no money during that time.
Cllr Shotton said the delays need to be addressed as a matter of urgency before the scheme is rolled out further and said tenants need to be prepared for the changes. He also said the number of people needing help was putting a strain on ‘already stretched’ support mechanisms.
He said the UK Government’s recent decision to remove the phone charges for the Universal Credit helpline is welcomed by WLGA. However it is urging UK Government to pause the roll out of Universal Credit and ensure that the negative impacts can be addressed.
He said: “We want to express our concern at the negative experiences of some claimants of Universal Credit in the areas of Wales where it has been implemented to date, and to support the requests that have been made by others, including the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, to pause wider roll out of Universal Credit until improvements to the programme, and the experiences of claimants, can be made.
“It is important that we learn from the experiences to date, both positive and negative, so that adjustments can be made as appropriate and the benefit of UC, as originally envisaged, can be achieved.”
Welfare reform will be one of the subject tackled at the RLA’s Future Renting Wales conference next month.
The national one day conference for the PRS will include a presentation by Leah Whitty of Cardiff Council, who will be discussing welfare along with tax and energy efficiency.
The national one-day conference for the PRS – will offer everything PRS landlords need to know to prepare themselves for the changes ahead.
Early bird tickets start from just £20 for RLA members and £25 for non-members.
Search #FutureRenting17 for all the latest conference news.