Call for direct landlord payments of Universal Credit amid low take-up figures
Scottish Labour has called on the Scottish Government to use the new powers over social security to ensure automatic payment of the Universal Credit housing element to landlords.
Analysis by the party found that fewer than half of eligible households have opted for the direct payments.
Universal Credit, a means-tested payment which is replacing a number of existing benefits, has been linked to soaring rent arrears and a reluctance among private landlords to take on tenants on the benefit.
Labour said that direct payments would reduce these problems and could ultimately protect tenants from homelessness.
The party has called for the housing element paid directly to landlords in all instances, with claimants having the option of opting out of that practice if they wish.
Labour social security spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “Using new social security powers to ensure housing benefit is automatically paid direct to landlords to protect the roof over people’s heads is a no-brainer.
“Across the country thousands are suffering the misery of Universal Credit, and are still having to juggle paying the rent heating their home or eating. We need to do more to prevent arrears building up, risking low-income families becoming homeless.
“Last year, Holyrood unanimously agreed payments of Universal Credit should be automatically split amongst both members of a couple and, with growing support from landlords and experts across the housing system, it’s time we did the same for rental payments.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We think it is important that the person has the choice about whether or not to have the housing cost element of their Universal Credit award paid to their landlord, just as they have choice if they are paid monthly or twice monthly.
“In line with our social security principles of respect, dignity and fairness, we support people to make an informed choice based on their own needs and what works best for them.”