Latest Public Sector News

22.11.16

Universal Credit pilot council calls for ‘urgent’ suspension of roll-out

One of the local councils piloting the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) has written to the DWP asking for the immediate suspension of the housing benefit element of the system due to adverse effects on local residents, particularly homeless applicants.

In a cross-party letter to work and pensions secretary Damien Green, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said that private landlords have been forced to start evicting tenants who receive UC due to delays in their receiving payments.

The council, made up of Conservative, Labour, UKIP and independent councillors, expressed “deep concerns” about the roll-out of UC and called for an “urgent” investigation into its impact. The letter was also copied to the Civil Service head of UC, Neil Couling, and Great Yarmouth’s MP Brandon Lewis.

“It is in everyone’s interests to ensure that the implementation of UC happens as smoothly as possible. The borough council is working closely with partners, including JobCentre Plus, to support people through the transition,” the letter read.

“However, since the roll-out began in April, councillors have been faced with growing evidence about the way the process has been managed which is causing major concern for landlords and councillors, as well as unnecessary stress and anxiety for claimants who are left without income for a significant period of time,” it continued.

Councillors asked for clarification as to why Great Yarmouth had been selected as one of the pilot areas for UC in spring last year considering the high deprivation levels of some of the borough’s wards, with some people relying on benefits as their main or sole source of income.

With some UC claims taking over eight weeks to process, the letter explained that private landlords have started to evict UC tenants or reject the notion of taking on UC tenants.  The council noted that its own social housing rent arrears have also increased since the roll-out, which the council noted was “against a trend in previous years of falling arrears”.

Local landlords told the council that they are most concerned by “a lack of communication” from the DWP, particularly in relation to UC47 requests which allow landlords to request payment directly from a tenant’s UC if the tenant is struggling to pay rent. The council therefore urged better contact from the DWP to avoid further homelessness and unnecessary pressure on local organisations.

“Given these issues, we ask that the process be changed to facilitate a better communication process,” the letter said. “If this is not possible, we request that the housing benefit element of Universal Credit be immediately suspended from the Universal Credit go-live system until the communication process can be resolved.”

The council added that due to the delays it has been missing out on arrears from homeless applicants in temporary accommodation, thereby affecting its budget “at a time when public sector finances are tight”. It noted that many applicants leave temporary accommodation before they receive their first UC payment, concluding that temporary accommodation is not “UC-friendly”.  It asked for a response to their letter by Wednesday 30 November.

A DWP spokesperson downplayed the importance of the letter, calling the link made by the council between rent arrears and welfare reform “misleading”.

“The reasons for rent arrears are complex and to link it to welfare reform is misleading,” the spokesperson said. “Universal Credit is transforming lives with people moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system. It is designed to mirror the world of work by giving people responsibility over their lives, and paying Housing Benefit directly to claimants is an important part of this process.

“We work closely with local authorities to ensure that claimants are fully supported and rent can be paid directly to landlords for people who need extra support.”

Earlier in the year Damien Green announced further delays in the roll-out of Universal Credit, which is now not expected to be fully implemented until March 2022.

Comments

Fuckfack   22/11/2016 at 16:06

The dwp know exactly what they are playing at the fucking knobheads

Barney Turner   22/11/2016 at 16:17

A DWP spokesperson said that there is no link between welfare reform causing long processing delays & rent arrears? Is this the same DWP who stated repeatedly from 2011-15 that there were no targets for sanctioning claimants...until internal DWP memos were produced as evidence of exactly that by the PCS union & submitted to the Beyond The Oakley Review Committee On Sanctions in 2015?

Evany   22/11/2016 at 22:18

Funny, there are people who can prove that uc is leaving them without money and in dept. People who have letters proving dates that mean they are left upto 8 weeks without money and having no rent backdated so they have to find 4 weeks rent from what little is left. People who can show they have had to use food banks. This government is heartily and arrogant enough to say exactly what they have to brush off the deaths of those who had no one to turn to and nowhere to go!! I am ashamed to live in modern Britain and if it were not for my family and pets I would rather be deaf!

Anonymous   22/11/2016 at 22:31

The problem I think is that universal credit, does not even address council tax, someone then walks down to the council to tell them they un-employed, the council then goes off and works out a reduced charge because you un-employed, and the regular bank payments get stopped whilst they work this out, then the person gets a job, but remain under the universal credit scheme, and the council appears to lose overview of how much assistance they now get from universal credit, even if they do not need further assistance.... and then the council does not open outside working hours, evenings and weekends so the person can go and try figure out how much they need to pay.... It's a mess at all levels possible, and it starts with the fact that dwp works receive bonuses for stopping benefits and with the fact that the only way to contact dwp is via a premium number... and it goes on and on... you could not make this stuff up if you tried.

Ronnie   22/11/2016 at 23:02

Can the civil servants that administer this culling be prosecuted

Confused.Brit   23/11/2016 at 07:56

DWP Spokesperson: LALALALA WE'RE NOT LISTENING

James Moore   23/11/2016 at 14:54

The DWP always seems to come up with standard phases taken out of some comedy show to clarify their position so they do not have to take any responsibility for their actions

Derrick   23/11/2016 at 14:57

Universal Credit is based on a lie: namely that all new claimants have wages and/or savings to pay their rents and living costs for a minimum of five weeks (a "waiting week" and four week delay before receiving help) which often stretches to eight or even ten weeks if any hiccups occur. This puts social tenants into five to ten weeks of arrears on their rent, which, when they do go back into work they are never able to address because 65% of any earnings they make are deducted from the UC entitlements up to 100% depending on their income. (As well as having to pay more council tax, travel to work costs, dental and prescription charges etc.) Basically they are forced into permanent arrears by the delay in payment built in to Universal Credit and, because most are low paid, are never able to get ahead of that debt once put into that position. I was a full-time carer to my wife before she passed away with very little savings who ended up on Universal Credit. I did not have a month's wages to "tide me over" or the assets to meet many of my living costs, certainly not my rent. My UC application took seven weeks to process and I narrowly escaped eviction by the skin of my teeth despite the mess not being my fault. I am now facing a debt which I will probably never be able to repay because I don't earn enough to meet my living expenses as is, let alone pay back the monies I was left owing because of the pernicious way Universal Credit has been deliberately designed. Universal Credit is an evil thing. (Much like the malicious people who invented it.)

Terry Smyth   23/11/2016 at 22:06

Sadly, this country has become increasingly brutish and mean.

Angry UC Victim   23/11/2016 at 22:07

Abolish this now, it doesn't work, how many more people are going to end up homeless, put into debt or committing suicide because of these people. worse thing ever invented, makes me ashamed to be british, this country is a joke

Asi   24/11/2016 at 08:13

I am under universal credit was waiting frist payment 15 weeks have left 15 weeks rent arears recieved evection letter from my lanlourd still waiting backdated rent arears also have 3kids under age of 5 years Uc is could make people homeless and stress confuse time although the staff are not. Helpful and system some times they said our systema is down so freaky

Yvonne Kitching   24/11/2016 at 09:40

my daughter in law who suffers mental health problems .cracked up in the job center when told she as to wait 6 weeks for her 1st payment .rec a letter from dwp saying her behavior was not acceptable and any more she will not be allowed in the center again ? .im just glad that i was there with her .she as 2 children and her thoughts of no money or presents for children sent her over the edge .as i said to the manager and sec guard im just glad she as me and someone to go home and talk to and watch over her how many people get told that are ill and have no one .

Anonymous   24/11/2016 at 13:17

It is about time Great Yarmouth Council complained about being a trial Universal Credit area, UC certainly won't help the town, it is just causing more poverty and distress. I hope all councils follow suit.

April   25/11/2016 at 10:18

Just advice if you get into rent arrears ask your housing officer or apply for discretionary payment from council hope this helps..

April   25/11/2016 at 10:31

Just advice if you get into rent arrears ask your housing officer or apply for discretionary payment from council hope this helps..

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