Go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06yflxg to listen - wind forward 1hr 40 mins
The gist of the interview can be read in a subsequent media release, as follows:
RENT ARREARS IN RUGBY RISE BY 90% IN SIX YEARS – COINCIDING WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF UNIVERSAL CREDIT
Members of Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) have firmly blamed the introduction of Universal Credit for a massive increase in rent arrears in the town. “Rugby was one of just six areas in the country to pilot Universal Credit from 2013, and local claimants have seen their benefits cut dramatically as a result”, Rugby TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren told us today. “We are therefore not surprised that figures released this week from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that rent arrears have increased in Rugby by £309,000 between 2013 and 2018 – a rise of 90%, the 19th highest in England out of 167 local authorities
“Neighbouring local authorities with a much slower roll out of Universal Credit have seen a much smaller rise in rent arrears in that same period – 19% in Nuneaton and no increase at all in Warwick for example. Claimants begin to experience problems with Universal Credit as soon as they are transferred onto it. Housing Benefit stops with Universal Credit. Rent is paid directly to the claimant, not the landlord. Many low paid claimants have to choose between feeding their family or paying their rent.
“A major factor linking rent arrears with Universal Credit is the minimum wait for your first payment of at least six weeks – this means no income at all for that period, including for rent. We have met people in Rugby who had to wait over six months, not weeks: imagine having no money for you or your family for that long. And no rent for your house. Official figures show over 24% of new Universal Credit claimants wait longer than 6 weeks for full benefit: our evidence from regularly talking to claimants outside Rugby Job Centre suggests that % is higher
“Areas like Rugby where Universal Credit has been significantly rolled-out have seen a number of problems for claimants. Rent arrears, evictions, homelessness and poverty have increased proportionately far more than in other parts of the country. Rugby now has the 3rd highest homelesness in the West Midlands, up from being the 5th highest 2017, according to housing charity Shelter.
“There is only one way to prevent these poblems, and that is to abandon Universal Credit completely and replace it with a fair system of social security. Tinkering with it, as the Governemnt will claim it has done, makes little difference to the suffering claimants face on a daily basis. The whole aim of Universal Credit was to save £12 billion from the welfare bill, and the only real way to do that is to reduce claimants benefits. That is why this flagship Tory welfare has to go,” Pete McLaren concluded
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
Universal Credit replaces JSA, Income Support. EESA, tax credits, Housing Benefit and child care costs under working tax credit
2013/2014 - £344,939
2017/2018 - £653,988
% change in last 4 years - 90%
Pete McLaren is a member of the TUSC National Steering Committee, and is its Local Group Development Officer