The National Housing Federation (NHF), the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Community Housing Cymru and the Northern Irish Federation of Housing Associations, are joining together to warn that the Universal Credit system is “flawed” and causing debt, suffering and hardship for the families they house. Together these organisations represent more than 1,000 housing associations housing over 6.9m people, and they are urgently calling on the Government to change their flagship benefit policy before it is rolled out to all parts of the country this year.
Five urgent changes needed to Universal Credit
- Allow housing association staff and agencies, such as Citizens Advice, to sort out problems with Universal Credit as advocates for tenants. This will help solve problems earlier and minimise rent arrears
- Scrap the “two child policy” and “benefit cap limit” pushing families into poverty
- Ensure Universal Credit is paid to people and their landlords on time, at the same time. The DWP has set up a system of Alternative Payment Arrangements so that in some circumstances people’s housing costs can be paid direct to their landlord. At the moment, landlords receive this money in arrears on varied and unpredictable dates which causes confusion. Landlords should be paid rent at the same time it is deducted from the tenants benefit
- The Department for Work and Pensions agreed to put in place Universal Support to provide advice, assistance and support to tenants. They must adapt it to cope with greater numbers and more complex cases, and provide the funding to support more tenants
- Government needs to restore the in-work allowances and revise the rules so that the self-employed, those working in the gig economy with fluctuating pay packets or those who are not paid monthly do not lose out. Present policies mean people are losing money as a consequence of moving onto Universal Credit now.