Universal Credit universally discredited
Today the Smith Institute launched their report on the impact Universal Credit (UC) in Southwark and Croydon in partnership with the Peabody housing association.
The report was clear in its findings: Universal Credit has dramatically increased rent arrears and debts within local authorities and other housing providers. This is something Southwark Council has stated for some time, as a trial area for the flagship but failing Government policy. Over 4,000 Southwark council tenants now claim UC and their arrears account for an astonishing £5.3 million.
The scale of the problem is vast when compared with Housing Benefit: the average council tenant on Housing Benefit in Southwark is £8 in credit; the average person on UC is in arrears of £1,178 but the Government are choosing to ignore the scale of the issue, despite its equally horrendous impact on foodbank use and in-work poverty. My Guardian article on the wider issues can be read here.
The Government last week had an opportunity to pause and address the problems within Universal Credit. On the Work & Pensions Select Committee I pushed the Minister on the flaws within this system. One of my questions can be watched here and my speech in the Commons debate on UC can be viewed here.
Sadly, the Government chose to push ahead despite the damage they are causing locally and nationally. Tory MPs abstained on the UC vote, refusing to support the flagship welfare policy (only introduced with Lib Dem support in the Coalition, sadly including my predecessor Simon Hughes).
The Select Committee is looking again at UC this week and I will continue to highlight the horrific issues within the system until the Government is forced to face reality.