30 Labour MPs and the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, have urged the Government to delay the Universal Credit rollout to prevent their constituents from suffering hardship over the Christmas period.
In a letter, the group, led by Labour MP Laura Pidcock, called on the Government to put the latest Universal Credit rollout on hold until 2018, as claimants would not be able to afford delays to their first benefit payment over the festive period.
Ministers are planning to accelerate the introduction of Universal Credit, which rolls six benefits into a single monthly payment, to around 50 new areas.
We have a helpful guide for landlords on understanding the new benefit system: https://www.justlandlords.co.uk/news/landlords-guide-universal-credit/
The 31 MPs, whose constituencies will be affected, said the Universal Credit rollout would cause misery to thousands of new claimants, who may not get their first payment for up to seven weeks after applying.
The letter said: “There is a real worry that the introduction of Universal Credit, at this time, will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period.
“We understand that the proposed changes were designed to make the social security system simpler, more reactive to an individual’s issues and more efficient. However, evidence from other parts of the country where Universal Credit has been introduced already shows that it is far from the efficient system trailed.”
They highlighted the wait of up to seven weeks, the removal of the severe disability premium and difficulties people have in repaying crisis loans of £150 in three £50 lump sums.
The MPs added: “The current timetable will cause our residents severe hardship over the months which are most financially difficult. We urge that you do not roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018.”
The Labour MPs include the Shadow Cabinet Minister, Kate Osamor, Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern, John Mann, Jon Cruddas and John Cryer.
Their plea is the latest in a long list of warnings that Universal Credit is not ready for a wider rollout. The benefit is already paid to around 530,000 people in trial areas, but this number would rise sharply in the autumn, when it is due to be extended.
We looked at research that found that Universal Credit is pushing tenants into long-term debt: https://www.justlandlords.co.uk/news/universal-credit-is-pushing-tenants-into-long-term-debt/
In June, Citizens Advice produced fresh evidence that the new system is causing debt and financial insecurity among recipients.
The charity surveyed 800 people who sought help with Universal Credit in pilot areas, finding that 39% were waiting more than six weeks to receive their first payment, while 57% had to borrow money to get by during that time.
The report also detailed problems with the online application system and long waits to get help over the phone. 30% of those surveyed said that they had to make more than ten calls to the helpline during their application process, often having to wait more than 30 minutes to get through.
Earlier this year, David Freud, a former welfare minister, admitted to MPs that administrative problems and design issues with Universal Credit were causing about one in four low-income tenants to run up rent arrears, putting them at risk of eviction.
Lord Freud, who has helped to oversee the development of Universal Credit over the past six years, also suggested that the long waiting times claimants faced before they received a first payment when they move onto the new system should be shortened.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions, reacts: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a gradual, safe and secure way, and the majority of people are managing their budgets well. The best way to help people improve their lives is to help them into work and, under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.”
We urge all landlords with tenants on benefits to get up to date with the new system and prepare for potential rent arrears when the Universal Credit rollout arrives.
Remember that our Rent Guarantee Insurance, which protects your income against tenant rent default, is available to benefit tenants: https://www.justlandlords.co.uk/rentguaranteeinsurance