Con­cerns over ben­e­fits shake-up

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - News -

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.”

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