Cash owed to Doncaster Council through rent arrears could rise dramatically due to problems transferring tenants onto Universal Credit.
Deputy Mayor Coun Glyn Jones told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday the council was ‘on track’ and ‘ahead of target’ but the rate of transfer for tenants onto Universal Credit was ‘greater than previously envisaged’.
Documents seen by councillors show the local authority now has 1,869 UC cases - 92 per cent of these are in arrears.
This is an increase of almost ‘500 cases’ compared to last the quarter.
Universal Credit is replacing six separate income related benefits such housing benefit and jobseekers’ allowance into one payment.
But the scheme and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have been widely criticised with claimants waiting weeks for payment.
Latest figures show the council is owed £2 million before the introduction of UC.
Deputy Major Jones said the rate of transfer onto UC has been greater than the forecast provided by the DWP.
This means the amount of rent the council has to collect instead of being paid direct via the old housing benefit system, is greater than originally anticipated at £9 million.
Work is said to be continuing with tenants and DWP to provide ‘intensive support’ such as applying for ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements’ (APAs) where appropriate. Around 30 per cent of UC cases are currently on an APA.
Henrietta Davies, operations manager at Citzens Advice Doncaster said Universal Credit referrals were a now a massive part of their workload and the issue has intensified in the last six months.
“This is a big issue that we are seeing – week by week we’re seeing more cases about Universal Credit,” she said.
“This is both on applying for Universal Credit and while waiting for payment. It’s causing a lot distress.
“The people who are supposed to help who are in work are making errors – it not just about the claim itself it’s there’s also problems while people are claiming.
“There are big concerns from claimants about their living situation. We are seeing referrals coming in from St Leger for their clients.”