The rollout of universal credit has brought fear into housing associations and councils concerning the specter of evictions. Landlords have said that they face rising financial pressure. They are told by the government to open the due eviction proceedings against their tenants. This comes even though there is a rise in the rent arrears linked with the new benefit. This happens while ministers declared that universal credit was functioning as it should. The statements are being disputed by mayors across the UK. One of them, Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Mayor, said that the population of rough sleepers in his city will rise by twice the present unless the rollout was stopped by Theresa May.
Even though the universal credit principle was broadly welcomed as a method of simplifying the existing benefits system, concerns are rising that it is a complex matter and there are a number of shortcomings in the design. These problems are harming the people this scheme is trying to assist. The concerns were articulated by Frank Field, chair of the committee looking after the work and pensions of the Commons.
The skeptical viewpoint has been corroborated by National Housing Federation. The latter represents about 900 English housing associations. The organization said that universal credit presents a hard challenge to the landlords as they try to prevent their tenants from being evicted.
Specter of homelessness
Claimants to the universal scheme worry of being homeless due to rent arrears collected over a minimum 42 day waiting period for first benefit payment. Many others say there is too much stress when dealing with the system. There is also an adverse impact with respect to their finances. The mental health of the claimants is also negatively affected.
All pleas to halt the rollout has fallen on deaf ears. David Gauke, the secretary of work and pensions, has rejected all calls, which included requests from his own 14 Conservative party MP s, to temporarily halt the rollout till the design flaws get fixed. The secretary, during his speech at the party conference, said that universal credit is a step towards a Conservative vision of modern welfare state which, in his own words, will be compassionate, aspirational, and practical. The problem is that landlords have started to report evictions due to universal credit. Many of them insisted that they only open such proceedings as last option. These are opened only if the tenants do not engage with them to settle the arrears.