Strong media interest as Four Federations launch their Five Asks Campaign on Universal Credit
The four UK housing associations launch their Five Asks Campaign to fix the shortcomings in Universal Credit.
The four UK housing federations – the SFHA, NHF, CHC and NIFHA - launched today a Five Asks Campaign for changes to Universal Credit Full Service (UCFS).
The SFHA has also reiterated its call for a pause to the rollout of UCFS until these fixes can be put into place, which was echoed in the recently published National Audit Office Report on the rollout of UC.
This was the same report which attracted controversy when the Secretary of State was forced to apologise to Parliament for mistakenly claiming that the NAO had recommended accelerating the rollout, when the reverse was actually true. There has already been strong media interest in the campaign, which has been covered in television and radio news reports as well as in the printed media.
The Four Federations have outlined Five Asks to make Universal Credit fit for purpose:
Allow housing association staff and agencies, such as Citizens Advice, to sort out problems with Universal Credit as advocates for tenants, to help solve problems earlier and minimise rent arrears.
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.
Scrap the ‘two child policy’ and ‘benefit cap limit’ both proved to push families into poverty.
Extend Universal Support to provide comprehensive advice, assistance and support to tenants. It will need to be adequately funded to cope with greater numbers and more complex cases.
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.
SFHA Head of Public Affairs Sarah Boyack said:
“We know from the feedback we have received from members that the existing system is severely flawed, with tenants being left without money for an unacceptably long period, with associations left chasing direct payments from the DWP that may have gone astray and this is still with comparatively few households transferred to UC.
Back in December there were only some 24,000 households in the social rented sector on UC, compared to over 230,000 working age households on Housing Benefit. If Universal Credit is struggling now, how will it cope when the big city areas like Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen go over to the Full Service later this year?
“There has been huge interest and concern shown by both the media and by elected representatives. The problems with Universal Credit cannot go unchallenged and I would urge our members to do three things:
Keep sending us your feedback via our monthly UC Impact Surveys – it gives us the evidence to question the claims made for UC by the Government.
Engage with your local MPs and MSPs – not only to warn them of the distress you are seeing caused to your tenants but also to show what measures you have taken to mitigate the impact and support your tenants.
If you can, identify case studies to illustrate the problems you have encountered. It will take some bravery for someone to tell the media of their experience, although their stories and the association they are a tenant of can by anonymised if they wish.”