A report on Universal Credit from the Community Advice and Support Manager David Wortley is being discussed by Rugby Borough Council’s Brooke Overview and Scrutiny Committee this Thursday. “It confirms what Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has been saying for a number of years about Universal Credit pushing claimants into poverty, and how Rugby Council could do more to alleviate that,” Rugby TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren confirmed. “Rugby TUSC wrote to Rugby Council last autumn, and it was David Wortley himself who replied: but only to tell us that Rugby Borough Council wasn’t prepared to do anything else to help.
“Delays in receipt of Universal Credit of up to ten weeks after signing on, and any loss of all benefits if sanctions are imposed, have caused untold suffering for claimants. In particular, these periods of not receiving benefits lead to rent arrears, and, subsequently, evictions. The problem is made worse because Universal Credit claimants no longer have their rent paid directly to their landlord as part of the benefit as they did when receiving Housing Benefit.
“The report to Rugby Council’s meeting on Thursday shows that rent arrears for council tenants in Rugby increased in the 12 months up to March 2018 as the numbers in receipt of Universal Credit increased - and by an even higher ratio.
Tenants in receipt of Universal Credit rose from 422 in April 2017 to 634 in March 2018, an increase of 50%.
Those in rent arrears rose from 353 to 547, an increase of 55%.
Total rent arrears increased from £284,210 to £455,747 – an increase of 60%.
As more and more claimants are put on Universal Credit, rent arrears rise. It is pushing benefit claimants into poverty, and that is a disgrace. Universal Credit was introduced by the Tory Government supposedly to help people – it clearly hasn’t.
“According to the report to Rugby Council, in December 2017 there were 2,944 households in Rugby who had applied for Universal Credit, but only 2,562 were receiving any payment. That leaves 382 local families with no income and no rent being paid. Rugby Borough Council could be doing so much more to alleviate such poverty by introducing Nil Income Forms – something Rugby TUSC has been campaigning for.
“Councils can offer payments to claimants through these Nil Income Forms, as a number of other local authorities do, whether or not they are in receipt of benefits. This would particularly help with the hardship those claiming Universal Credit experience in that period of up to ten weeks before they receive any benefits, and for any claimants who are sanctioned
“It is significant that the report says ‘there are no financial implications arising from it’. In other words, Rugby Borough Council is not prepared to spend any money helping people who suffer from problems caused by Universal Credit. The report accepts that there are problems - the Housing Services Team will be ‘looking to ensure that the service can identify issues earlier and identify additional support for tenants’ – but clearly it won’t be financial. All the report does offer is a loan to cover the period until the first Universal Credit payment is received – loans have to be repaid so it is just postponing poverty,” Pete McLaren concluded
Pete McLaren, Secretary and spokesperson Rugby TUSC