The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released its latest figures on Universal Credit. But on the same day, a Labour MP issued a stark warning: that “evictions are inevitable” if Universal Credit is rolled out. And the DWP’s own figures make the Labour MP’s damning warning seem highly likely.
The DWP: “stuck in Victorian times”
On Tuesday 11 September, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton Dan Carden led a Westminster Hall parliamentary debate on the rollout of Universal Credit. The controversial benefit, which replaces six existing benefits, has repeatedly come under fire from campaigners, trade unions and others. But the DWP is carrying on with its rollout regardless.
As Carden noted, and as The Canary has previously reported:
the rollout of Universal Credit is only the latest onslaught of a benefits system that is stuck in Victorian times…
Despite all the warnings, Universal Credit is to be rolled out in Liverpool this autumn – a policy so flawed it is plunging claimants into debt, arrears, and foodbank reliance. I called today's debate to tell the Government: #StopAndFix UC to prevent more hardship. pic.twitter.com/mwBSzLwY2o
— Dan Carden MP (@DanCardenMP) September 11, 2018
He went on to criticise Universal Credit and the DWP more broadly.
But Carden made one telling point. He said:
I spoke to one letting agent based in my constituency who told me that 100% of the their tenants who are on Universal Credit are now in rent arrears—every single one of them…
He also said that letting agents in Liverpool are:
at the point of refusing Universal Credit claimants altogether.
And as Carden told the Liverpool Echo:
Local landlords are saying… that evictions are inevitable if this roll-out goes ahead – exacerbating what is already a national scandal.
- People on Universal Credit owe 63.7% of all rent arrears. But just 24.9% of tenants are on the benefit.
- Universal Credit claimants’ arrears have increased by 76% on average.
- There was a £210,000 increase in arrears due to Universal Credit in a year.
- Before Universal Credit, the average rent arrears was £207. Now it’s £365.
But the DWP figures released on the same day as Carden’s debate suggest it must know that arrears and evictions could well be a consequence of Universal Credit. Because to date [pdf, p8], the DWP is making the majority of payments for housing costs directly to claimants; 94% in the case of the private rented sector:
So why is this set up causing arrears and evictions? Carden summed the situation up. He said:
Other problems include payment as a single lump sum, including housing costs – causing households to choose between food or rent, especially at the outset of the claim.
And this is ultimately the problem. Universal Credit’s chaotic rollout, plus inadequate payments, are causing people to choose between eating and paying rent. The DWP must know this; its figures show the problem for everyone to see. Yet it continues with the rollout, regardless.
– Check out the #DWPcrimes, #ScrapUniversalCredit and #CrimesOfDWP hashtags on Twitter. Support the blogs Universal Credit Sufferer and The Poor Side of Life. Get involved with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), fighting for disabled people’s rights.