MPs launch official inquiry into universal credit as criticism grows

Investigation into benefits system comes amid mounting evidence that payment delays have left thousands facing eviction

MPs have launched an official inquiry into universal credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

The Commons work and pensions committee said it was compelled to launch a full investigation after mounting evidence that built-in payment delays and administrative blockages were creating severe problems for claimants and landlords.

A Guardian investigation this month found widespread evidence that thousands of tenants on universal credit were running up rent arrears and debts because they could not manage the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment.

Landlords have also criticised the system, with private landlords warning that they will not let to universal credit claimants because of the high risk of rent arrears and problems navigating byzantine official bureaucracy.

Surveys by housing associations have found that up to nine in 10 tenants on universal credit either run up rent arrears or increase the level of pre-existing arrears because so few are equipped to cope with long waits without income.

Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions committee said: “Huge delays in people receiving payments from universal credit have resulted in claimants falling into debt and rent arrears, caused health problems and led to many having to rely on food banks.”

The inquiry will ratchet up the pressure on the Department for Work and Pensions to review the design of universal credit. It has played down the impact of the 42-day waiting time, arguing that its research carried out two years ago suggests arrears levels fall after three months once tenants get used to the new system.

But the former welfare minister Lord Freud admitted to MPs last month that at least a quarter of tenants on universal credit had run up rent arrears as a result, and he suggested that ministers should consider shortening waiting times for payment.

The MPs inquiry was announced on the same day that the universal credit full service was rolled out to a handful of new areas, including Poplar in east London and Warrington. The rollout is not due to be complete until September 2018.

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/22/mps-launch-official-inquiry-universal-credit-benefits?CMP=share_btn_fb

Landlords refuse to take on new Universal Credit claimants in Great Yarmouth

Landlords are refusing to take on tenants who are in the process of claiming for benefits.

At a meeting of the Great Yarmouth branch of the Eastern Landlords Association last month, members said they would not take on new tenants in the process of making a claim for Universal Credit.

Chairman of the association, Paul Cunningham, said some claimants were waiting ten to 12 weeks for their first payment, forcing them to go into arrears. He also said there have been a number of evictions solely down to Universal Credit issues.

He added: “The introduction of Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth last April has proved to be disastrous with landlords now refusing to take any such claimants and evictions rising due to arrears caused by the system.”

Housing benefit used to be paid directly to landlords by the local authority.

However under the changes it is now up to claimants to pay their rent to their landlords.

During the roll out of Universal Credit there have been issues that the claims process has caused long delays for some people.

Mr Cunningham added: “Only if the claim process is radically altered will this situation change. Housing benefit tenants were always accepted because the council managed the claim and would liaise with landlords, now that the process is managed by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), they refuse to communicate with the landlords even after being told the tenant is in danger of eviction.”

Some landlords have been forced to evict tenants and in the most extreme cases meaning some people have been made homeless.

read more here: http://www.greatyarmouthmercury.co.uk/news/landlords_refuse_to_take_on_new_universal_credit_claimants_in_great_yarmouth_1_4891290

I borrowed money from my mum to buy food’: life on universal credit

Recipients are falling into rent arrears because of payment delays, forcing some to rely on food banks. Here are your stories

Thousands receiving universal credit are facing debt, rent arrears and eviction, it has been claimed. Politicians and landlords have warned that the rules requiring claimants to wait at least six weeks for a first benefit payment mean many are going without basic living essentials and, in some cases, turning to loan sharks or food banks for help.

Ministers are being urged to slow the national rollout and increase support for vulnerable claimants. We asked for your stories of accessing the new benefit system.

Read those stories here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/08/i-borrowed-money-from-my-mum-to-buy-food-life-on-universal-credit

Universal Credit Cock-ups: the Computer Industry Speaks.

“Basic flaw rests in the idea that we can “personalise” benefits for millions of people. There are just too many moving parts; and in a system with millions of iterations, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. “ Following the advice of many people on this Blog, I have been looking at what the […]

via Universal Credit Cock-ups: the Computer Industry Speaks. — Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Welfare claimants face 12-week waits for new benefit Universal Credit putting them ‘at risk of eviction’

The stark warning came tonight from Croydon Council, a key pilot area for the “full digital service” of Universal Credit

People who move onto the Tories’ flagship welfare scheme are waiting nearly three months for payments to roll in – putting them at risk of eviction, a town hall boss has said.

The stark warning came tonight from Croydon Council in south London, a key pilot area for the “full digital service” of Universal Credit.

The system rolls six benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit into one payment and is slowly being phased in across the UK after several delays.

But analysts have claimed millions will face overall cuts due to changes in “work allowances” under the new system.

Mark Fowler, Croydon Council’s director of welfare, said some single people under 35 had their payments cut from £155 a week to just £72 in the new scheme.

read more: http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/problems-with-the-introduction-of-universal-credit-are-putting-croydon-s-most-vulnerable-at-risk/story-30086475-detail/story.html

DWP slammed for “shambolic” Universal Credit roll-out

MP demands figures on how many people are being put on Universal Credit in error

An MP has blamed the DWP for creating homelessness over its “incompetent” processing of Universal Credit claims.

It emerged last week in a Glasgow City Council report into the impact the scheme was having on its services that homeless people in the city has been placed on the new scheme in error by the DWP.

Now Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, is demanding answers from the DWP as to how many more homeless people across the UK have been placed on the controversial scheme in error.

The report, published by the Glasgow City Joint Integration Board, found that 73 homeless people have been put on Universal Credit, despite DWP guidance instructing homeless people being exempt from the new scheme.

Read more here: http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/tfn-news/dwp-slammed-for-shambolic-universal-credit-roll-out

How the Universal Credit bureaucracy can screw your chance of paying rent

From Kate Belgrave’s  blog

This story will give you an idea of some of the reasons why people can end up with rent arrears when they’re trying to set up a Universal Credit claim.

It should also give you an idea why some jobcentre meetings drive me to the brink.

So.

I recently attended a meeting at Croydon jobcentre with a woman who has been trying to sort out the housing component of her Universal Credit claim for several months (I’ve posted a short transcript from the meeting below).

You’ll see from the transcript that the meeting was ludicrous.

Read more here:

http://www.katebelgrave.com/2017/01/how-the-universal-credit-bureaucracy-can-screw-your-chance-of-paying-rent/