Concerns over benefits shake-up
The UK’s controversial new benefits system is driving people towards homelessness, a Scottish council has warned.
An unpublished report by Stirling Council, seen by The Sunday Post, reveals that local rent arrears have risen by almost 350% since Universal Credit became active in the area four months ago.
Council housing debts among tenants claiming Universal Credit have increased by £45,308 during that period, from £13,013 on June 28 to £58,321 last month.
Meanwhile, arrears for temporary accommodation totalled £135,339 by October 8, compared with £93,595 in the beginning of July.
The report adds there is an “increased risk of potential homelessness due to delays in UC Housing Costs being awarded and increased potential for evictions for rent arrears with some choosing not to pay rent when they receive lump sum UC payment.”
According to the document, “informal evidence” suggests that 237 crisis grants totalling £37,486.02 have been paid out by the council since June 28 this year, when the changes came into force.
We revealed last week that the number of people forced to sleep rough in Scotland’s towns and cities has soared, with experts blaming welfare changes for the increase.
Universal credit, which rolls six working-age benefits into a single payment, is designed to make the system simpler and ensure no-one faces a situation where they would be better off claiming benefits than working.
It is set be rolled out across Scotland by next September but has faced a backlash from some MPs.
SNP MSP Maree Todd said: “Universal Credit is driving people into hardship and ruining lives. People can’t find the means to make ends meet, to pay their rent or even feed themselves.”
The Nationalists’ Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said the welfare system could prove to be Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Poll Tax moment”.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.
“And it’s working. With Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.”