Housing minister Kevin Stewart outlines the reasons behind the new Universal Credit choices for recipients in Scotland and what they mean for landlords and tenants.
From October 4 the Scottish Government will offer people living in Scotland and in receipt of the UK government’s Universal Credit the choice to:
- be paid either monthly or twice monthly; and
- have the housing costs in their award of Universal Credit paid direct to their landlord.
Our main focus has been on the positive effect these new choices can have for tenants in helping them manage their money in the way that best suits them.
As highlighted by the Scottish Government on a number of occasions – including in parliament today – we believe there are fundamental flaws in the current Universal Credit system. I share the concerns of charities, councils, landlords and of course people already on Universal Credit about the negative and damaging impact that Universal Credit is having on tenants and landlords and will continue to have, if UK Ministers insist Universal Credit is rolled out across Scotland before they fix the problems inherent in the system.
I am especially concerned about the impact Universal Credit has on Registered Social Landlords’ revenue streams and that this might have a knock on effect on their ability to deliver Placemaking and Refurbishment programmes.
As Housing Minister, my interest not only lies with the impact on tenants and landlords, but with a housing system that works for everyone. The Universal Credit choices we can deliver within the limited powers we have will help in working towards that.
Alternative Payment Arrangements will still be available for all claimants who satisfy the relevant criteria. These will be the first consideration for people with complex needs or rent arrears. The process and operation of Alternative Payment Arrangements are not changing as a result of the new Universal Credit choices.
These choices will be delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Scottish Government, and landlords and advice agencies may be the first port of call for questions from tenants.
I encourage landlords to publicise the new choices widely, to give tenants more choice and control around managing their household budgets, including preventing the build-up of rent arrears – as we have seen in areas where Universal Credit is already active – and helping tenants to stay in their homes.