Universal Credit delivers 82% increase in housing arrears


New figures have emerged showing that rent arrears resulting from Universal Credits have increased from £387,040 to £704,347 since September 2016. The staggering 82% increase in housing arrears is as a direct result of the introduction of Universal Credits. The changes affect anyone in receipt of a benefit including those in receipt of Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, and Disability Benefits.

As one of the ‘guinea pigs’ of the new benefits regime, people in Inverness are feeling the effects of the ‘Full Service’ benefit rollout earlier than most other areas of the Country. The UK Government plans to roll out the full benefit to other parts of the Highlands in the summer. 

Local MP, Drew Hendry is calling for an immediate halt of the universal credit rollout and recently led a debate on the issue in the House of Commons. He told MPs of the devastating effect it is having on people’s lives and the burden the benefit cuts were placing on the Highland Council.

During his speech, he said the system was ‘flawed by design’ and that it was causing those living in temporary accommodation to ‘always be in arrears’.

He told MPs about one constituent who has been living in homeless accommodation for some time and was now facing a £115 shortfall for his rent every week. This is because, despite a room in homeless accommodation costing £175 week, his universal credits only award £60 for accommodation costs.

Mr Hendry told MPs that even if his constituent “gave up food, heat, light, and everything else, if he spent every single penny on rent, he would still be short.” and went on to say, “It is the Highland Council is left carrying the debt of the money Gavin and others simply don’t have.”

Commenting on these latest rent arrears figures, Mr Hendry added:

“These figures come as no surprise to me nor to the Welfare Support Team at the Highland Council. Staff, who, along with staff at the CAB and my own team, have been working under incredible pressure to support people who have been left without money because of this shambolic rollout.

“Over a year ago, staff at the Highland Council voiced concerns about the impact the inclusion of temporary accommodation would have. Concerns I have raised repeatedly with Ministers since then.

“The situation is now at crisis point and I have asked Ministers to undertake an immediate consultation of the situation, with a pause on any further roll out in the meantime.

“These benefit cuts that are lining the pockets of the UK treasury while people living in temporary accommodation, along with working families, lone parents, those in receipt of disability benefits and job seekers are left without enough to make ends meet. The Scottish Government is already paying £100 to mitigate bedroom tax in addition to other measures and now, thanks to this shambolic roll out, local authorities have to foot the bill for arrears. It is not on.