Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, has this week written to the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, raising concerns about the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and calling for it to be postponed.
Toby said, “Chesterfield is recording rough sleeping levels similar to what we would previously only expect in city centres. This is putting vulnerable people at risk and has led to an increase in street drinking and antisocial behaviour in the town centre. I have spoken to a variety of agencies and housing providers, all of whom are concerned that Universal Credit will lead to further evictions, more people on the streets and increased pressure on services.”
A recent report by the Association of Retained Council Housing and the National Federation of ALMOs has highlighted that for claimants on Universal Credit, 73% were in arrears in March 2017, compared to 31% of non-UC claimants, with average arrears almost double amongst UC claimants. Research done by the Citizens Advice Bureau has also shown huge delays in claims due to maladministration that has resulted in severe hardship and rent arrears for claimants.
Universal Credit will also mean that the Housing Element, which is currently paid as Housing Benefit direct to councils, housing associations and landlords, will be paid directly to claimants.
Toby on a recent visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station to discuss problems homelessness and rough sleeping in Chesterfield
Housing providers and charities have warned that this could result in many claimants not paying their rent and becoming at risk of homelessness.
Toby added, “The Borough Council, Police and local agencies are working together to try and address the homelessness situation in town, but they also need Government to take action. The
Government need to put Universal Credit on hold until they have investigated the concerns raised from the pilot areas and made changes to ensure it does not lead to hardship, rent arrears and more people losing their homes.”
You can read the full letter Toby has written to the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions : Toby letter to Damian Green MP