For immediate release:
SOUTH LANARKSHIRE COUNCIL TENANTS ACCRUE £750k OF DEBT DUE TO UNIVERSAL CREDIT
Tenants of South Lanarkshire Council have accumulated three-quarters of a million pounds in rent arrears due to the roll-out of Universal Credit, according to research by Rutherglen MSP Clare Haughey.
The MSP submitted a Freedom of Information request to South Lanarkshire Council for information about the financial impact of Universal Credit on the local authority since its full roll-out by the UK Government in October 2017.
Universal Credit is a new social security payment introduced by the Department of Work and Pensions to replace six existing benefits including income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, and Working Tax Credits.
However, it has been mired in controversy since its initial roll-out began in 2013.
To mirror being paid a salary, it is paid once a month in arrears. Claimants and critics of the policy say this delay in the payment, combined with confusion over the online application process, has seen families left with no income for weeks.
Ms Haughey’s Freedom of Information request, which the Rutherglen Reformer has seen, found that:
• £768,000 in rent arrears has been accumulated by tenants on Universal Credit
• The value of rent arrears has increased 146% as a direct result of its roll-out
• And a further £368,000 has been spent in staffing and other costs to deal with the system’s impact.
At the end of August 2018, a total of 3269 Council tenants were in receipt of Universal Credit of which a staggering 82% were in arrears. This is in comparison to 31% of all tenants who are in rent arrears.
Rutherglen Reformer has extensively covered the damaging effect of Universal Credit locally. Last month, we revealed how Rutherglen and Cambuslang Foodbank have seen a 50% year on year increase in demand which was largely attributable to Universal Credit and sanctions.
Rutherglen MSP Clare Haughey said the figures highlighted a ‘shocking situation’ and reiterated her calls for Universal Credit to be ‘halted’.
Commenting, the MSP said:
“It is absolutely clear: not only is Universal Credit disastrous for the person in receipt of it, but it is also preventing local authorities from using money to benefit their communities.
“These Freedom of Information figures have highlighted a shocking situation, showing that the roll-out of Universal Credit has already hit South Lanarkshire Council hard.
“In addition to meeting administration costs, South Lanarkshire Council is also having to burden the cost of rent arrears which have shot through the roof because of the length of time people and landlords have to wait for payments. It simply cannot go on.
“This botched UK Government policy is leaving millions of families poorer and worse off. Cutting incomes by hundreds or even thousands of pounds, taking vital support away from the disabled, leaving claimants without money for months on end, and forcing families to rely on foodbanks and emergency aid just to get by.
“Universal Credit must be halted now to save people, communities, and local authorities across Scotland from such devastating hardship.”
Please find the Freedom of Information request here.
Date published: 14th November 2018