SFHA reiterates warning of the ‘catastrophic consequences’ of Universal Credit

Sarah Boyack
Sarah Boyack

Ahead of today’s Scottish Government debate on ‘The Roll-out of Universal Credit’, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has once again warned that the continued roll-out of the benefit will have catastrophic consequences for some of the most vulnerable in society as well as undermine the sustainability of housing associations.

The SFHA has continually pressed for the accelerated roll-out of the social security payment to be halted.

It supported Citizens Advice Scotland’s call to end the benefit ahead of a Members’ Debate in the Scottish Parliament last month and was one of a group of 24 charities who signed a joint public letter calling for the roll-out to be stopped.

Sarah Boyack, SFHA head of public affairs, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s debate on Universal Credit and the political support for the roll-out to be halted.

“While we are not against Universal Credit, we want to see the roll-out of the policy postponed until it is proven to work. There is a growing body of evidence that Universal Credit is not performing as it should, and we are hearing this first-hand from our members.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the DWP’s failure to process claims promptly, combined with the huge rise in volume and complexity, will have catastrophic consequences for some of the most vulnerable in our society, with some people waiting up to six weeks before they receive a penny. Many cases are causing people to fall into arrears, which could ultimately lead to homelessness.

“Universal Credit Full Service catches all types of claimant, not just the straightforward single jobseekers the Live Service dealt with, and this includes families with children – with more than one in four children in Scotland already living in poverty, this is incredibly concerning.”

Yesterday the Scottish Government increased the pressure on UK ministers to put the brakes on Universal Credit as it joined forces with COSLA to demand a halt to the full service roll-out of the welfare reform in Scotland.

Ms Boyack added: “SFHA members are working hard to contribute to the Scottish Government’s 50,000 affordable homes target, but the roll-out of Universal Credit is undermining the sustainability of the social housing model.

“The DWP is intent on rolling out Universal Credit regardless – despite repeated calls from organisations with direct experience of the problems caused by the system, asking for the roll-out to be paused whilst solutions are put in place.

“It is crucial that political parties keep highlighting the effects of Universal Credit. While there have been minor changes made by the DWP, the system is simply not ready to deal with the full roll-out proposed. Housing associations are working hard to try and protect their tenants, but without feedback from the DWP about the status of individual cases, this is impossible.”

“If Universal Credit it is not paused, there will be an urgent need for the Scottish Government to mitigate the policy’s more harmful consequences with top-up payments.”

SFHA members’ experience

“We were not informed by DWP , each claimant advised the association following arrears enquiries from staff.”

“We waited two months to see if Alternative Payment Arrangement arrears will be paid – all new Universal Credit claims end up with at least two months arrears for the tenant.”

“We also have a case of a tenant with three children whose records all stated she should receive just over £800 per month. This was received on month one, but the second payment was £500 short, with no change of circumstance and no explanation or warning from the DWP. The woman was distraught at now having to choose between not paying her rent, as her arrears are now at the point of court action, or feeding her children.”

Share icon
Share this article: