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UK Government must take responsibility for consequences of Universal Credit implementation

Policy is pushing tenants into debt and poverty 

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The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) is calling for the UK Government to act urgently on Universal Credit as the implementation of the policy is pushing tenants into debt and poverty as well as jeopardising the financial sustainability of housing associations.

This latest call for action comes as mounting evidence from SFHA members shows the impact the continued roll-out of Universal Credit is having, with one respondent to the federation’s monthly survey on the policy stating: “Universal Credit claimants make up 21% of our tenants – but they account for 59% of our rent arrears. Tenants who have Housing Benefit paid to themselves, and are responsible for making rent payments, make up 3% of our tenants but only account for 0.5% of our arrears”.

SFHA Chief Executive Sally Thomas highlighted the urgent need for the UK Government to resolve Universal Credit’s failings as she addressed the federation’s Finance Conference yesterday.

SFHA Chief Executive Sally Thomas said:

“The UK Government must take responsibility for the consequences of Universal Credit’s implementation as it is pushing tenants into debt and poverty as well as placing the social housing model in jeopardy.

“A growing number of organisations, including SFHA, Trussell Trust and the Institute for Fiscal Studies as well as Westminster’s Work and Pensions Committee, have analysed the current and potential impact of Universal Credit and have found it sorely wanting.

“New Universal Credit claimants have to wait over six weeks before they receive a first payment to meet their needs – and this is far too long. Anyone making a claim today will not get their first payment until after Christmas and may have to wait until well into the new year if things don’t go smoothly – which is the experience of over a fifth of new claimants in Universal Credit Full Service Areas.

“As we move towards what we call the festive season, thousands of families will be pushed further into debt, which could put their tenancy at risk and leave them with no alternative but to use food banks – which the Trussell Trust has warned may not be able to cope with spiralling demand.

“The SFHA will continue to make the case to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit, and we call on the UK Government to use its upcoming Budget to do this until it has put the necessary improvements in place. Until the failings are addressed, the catastrophic effects of this policy will be felt by some of the poorest and most vulnerable people as well as the housing associations that provide their homes.”