Thousands of Doncaster tenants are behind on their rent due to Universal Credit roll out

A70 per cent of Doncaster tenants who claim Universal Credit benefits are in rent arrears, new figures show.

Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 4:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 2:17 pm
Nearly 70 per cent of Doncaster residents on Universal Credit are in rent arrears
Nearly 70 per cent of Doncaster residents on Universal Credit are in rent arrears

The council, along with their housing provider St Leger Homes, said the role out of Universal Credit – which combins six old benefit payments into one – has been done faster than they expected.

Supporters of Universal Credit makes it simpler to understand and incentivises people getting back into work.

But the scheme has been heavily criticised with residents facing long delays in receiving payments and people being worse off than they were before.

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Under the old system, housing benefit was paid directly to the council and St Leger but under Universal Credit, payments are paid to the tenant leaving the local authority to collect it.

Documents show Doncaster now has 3,200 tenants who are claiming UC, 2,217 69 per cent are in rent arrears - an increase of 1,790 tenants claiming UC.

A report seen by cabinet members shows there was around £9 million more rent to collect this financial year than last year with Universal Credit being paid direct to tenants.

Nigel Feirn, head of finance and business assurance at St Leger Homes, said: “The rate of transfer on to Universal Credit has been greater than the forecast provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), meaning the amount of rent we had to collect, rather than being paid directly via Housing Benefit, is higher at this stage than originally anticipated.

“We continue to work closely with DWP colleagues and provide intensive support including applying for Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) where appropriate for those on UC.

“Currently, 30 per cent of UC cases have agreed an APA to have their rent paid direct from their UC payment.

“This is as a result of support with benefit claims or appeals such as personal independent payments, applying for grants, and accessing financial support to reduce debt.

“The team also worked with 273 families who are eligible to claim for the Stronger Families programme funding. In total, 81% of tenants who have received support from the team are still sustaining their tenancy 6 months after completing their programme of support.”