The Universal Credit (UC) system that replaced six means-tested benefits and tax credits is causing people to be unnecessarily evicted.
DWP Housing Partnership, Dorset’s largest private landlord, said despite the new welfare scheme having merit, the realities are that its poorest tenants are suffering.
Part of the system involves tenants paying the rent themselves – helping them to take control of their own finances and budgeting.
It allows for the Department of Work and Pensions to return to paying landlords directly if a tenant falls behind – but the delays are so long people are being evicted.
DWP Housing Partnership has around 3,000 tenants in total, 40 of whom are on Universal Credit – and that number is rising every month.
Dave Phillips, DWP manager, said: “If a tenant falls behind in their rent we send in our rent and support teams to try and help.
“After two months of non-payment we can apply for an ‘Alternative Payment Arrangement’ so the Job Centre pays the rent directly to us. And this is what the tenants want because it’s easier for them.
“But the Job Centre that runs the system can take many months sorting this out, by which time there are huge arrears and ultimately we have to evict.
“We are finding it extremely difficult and very frustrating working with the new system that is simply not doing what it should.
“Already we have evicted two of our tenants and more are pending. It is not in our interest or our tenants’ interests for them to get into this situation.
“More and more people are being brought into Universal Credit and it looks like it will only get worse.
“In the run-up to Christmas things will be more difficult for our tenants as they have increased pressure on their budgets. This situation occurred previously when Local Housing Allowance was introduced, which again was originally paid directly to the tenant.
“At the moment only single claimants are involved, but families will be included next year and by 2020 everyone that has a claim will be on the system.
Universal Credit was announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith at the Conservative Party annual conference in 2010 where it was stated the reform was designed to bring “fairness and simplicity” to the British social security system.
Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work by giving people control over their finances, helping them feel more confident about accepting job offers.
The Department of Work and Pensions say they have given councils £500m of funding to provide discretionary payments to those that need them, with a further £870m to be provided over the course of this Parliament.
A DWP spokesman told 24housing: “There are often different reasons for evictions and to link it to welfare reform is misleading. The reality is that under Universal Credit, claimants are moving into work faster and earning more than under the old system.
“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work and give people control over their own finances. The vast majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money and we provide budgeting support and benefit advances, and can arrange for rent payments to be made direct to landlords if needed.”
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