Friday 29 December 2017 / 11:13 AM 2017 Press Archive / The Latest from Labour

Councils forced to spend valuable resources tackling effects of Universal Credit

Councils across the country are being forced to spend
their own resources tackling the effects of Universal Credit and preparing for
its roll out. 

FOI requests submitted by Labour reveal Councils are
committing funds towards offsetting and preparing for the impact of Universal
Credit over and above Discretionary Housing Payments provided by the Department
for Work and Pensions.

The data shows some Councils are having to provide
additional rent arrears support and increase staffing as well as working with
their local food banks and Citizens Advice to offset the impact of Universal
Credit.

Newcastle City Council is spending nearly £400,000 of
its own resources supporting UC claimants, almost a quarter of which comes from
additional rent arrears support. That’s because the non-collection of rent
purely as a result of UC is over £1.2 million across a tenancy base of just
27,000.

In London, Tower Hamlets Council has set aside £5
million over three years to help those affected by Universal Credit and are
suffering hardship while Barking and Dagenham is budgeting £50,000 to support
UC claimants from January 2018.

Examples of Councils needing, and preparing, to commit
resources to offset the impact of Universal Credit (UC) include:

·        
Bath and
North East Somerset Council
plans to
spend its allocation of Discretionary Housing Payments. So far in 2017, nearly
three quarters of its DHP spend has gone to supporting claimants in receipt of
UC.

·        
Bolton
Council
has a £750,000 Local Welfare
Provision Scheme and a ring-fenced budget of £1.5 million over a five year
period to tackle poverty.

·        
Bournemouth
Borough Council
has recently commissioned a
£10,000 annual service from the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux to provide 2 days a
week drop-in to help those people either claiming UC for the first time or who
are experiencing problems with applying. 

·        
Brent
Council 
is anticipating “additional
demands on a number of Council departments” from the introduction of UC.

·        
Cheshire
West and Chester Council
is
spending more than £500,000 this year and next on additional staffing. It also
has a budget of £60,000 for Discretionary Hardship Payments.

·        
City of
Wolverhampton Council
expects demand for Discretionary
Housing Payments to increase following the expansion of UC during December.

·        
Cornwall
Council
is predicting an increase in the
number of people needing personal budget support for UC from 37 in December
2017 to 191 in March 2018, a rise of 416%.

·        
Dudley
Metropolitan Borough Council
has
increased staffing in its Income Management Team by £500,000 in the last three
years to manage the impact of UC and other welfare reforms.

·        
Gateshead
Housing Company
, which manages Gateshead
Council’s housing stock, is planning to spend an estimated £90,000 in 2017/18
and £270,000 in 2018/19 on additional staffing to support Universal Credit
claimants and help prevent rent arrears.

·        
Halton
Borough Council
has spent over £13,000 supporting
UC claimants who have experienced delays receiving their first UC payment and
those having budgeting issues.

·        
Haringey
Council
has a fund of up to £900,000 to
support families affected by welfare reform.

·        
Lambeth
Council
is spending £775,000 providing
advice to residents about social security, debt and money issues. Lambeth
Housing are spending £87,000 to provide a supportive service for tenants
impacted by welfare reform.

·        
Liverpool
City Council
has spent £175,000 from its
Local Welfare Provision Scheme for customers in receipt of UC.

·        
London
Borough of Barking and Dagenham

is budgeting £50,000 to support UC claimants from January 2018.

·        
London
Borough of Bexley
is spending £200,000 on homeless
prevention work, including preventing evictions for rent arrears.

·        
Newcastle
City Council
is spending over £390,000 of its
own resources to support UC claimants. That includes £88,000 in rent arrears
support as to date the non-collection of rent purely as a result of UC is over
£1.2 million across a tenancy base of just 27,000.

·        
Royal
Borough of Kingston Council
is
setting aside £181,000 as “bad debt provision in anticipation of the potential
increase in the number and value of bad debt write offs”.

·        
Sheffield
City Council
is holding workshops to prepare
for the full roll out of UC. The Council is working on the “understanding from
other authorities who have already gone through full roll-out of UC […] that
rent arrears double when tenants move onto UC.”  

·        
Shropshire
Council
has spent over £20,000 supporting
local foodbanks to “diversify the type of help they are able to give
specifically to suit Universal Credit.”

·        
Sunderland
City Council
is using resources from a
£250,000 Local Welfare Provision Scheme to support residents claiming UC.

·        
Telford
& Wrekin Council
is using resources from its
Welfare Crisis Assistance Scheme to prevent tenants from being evicted due to
rent arrears caused by UC.

·        
Tower
Hamlets Council
has allocated £5 million over
three years “to help those affected by Universal Credit and are suffering
hardship”.

·        
Wakefield
Council
has used a further £2,000 from
their Local Welfare Provision to support UC claimants.

·        
Warrington
Borough Council
has spent £6,500 in Local Welfare
Support payments supporting UC claimants.

·        
Waltham
Forest Council
has arranged staff training on
UC and is planning a £17,000 6-month project management resource to help
prepare for the introduction of UC. It is also hosting a seminar on how UC will
change the way staff need to work, the cost of which is £1,700.

·        
Wirral
Council
is contributing nearly £300,000
to a budget for Discretionary Housing Payments for applicants who receive
Housing Benefit or housing costs within UC.

Margaret
Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Employment,
said:

“Universal Credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of
families this Christmas, and Councils are being expected to pick up the pieces.

“It’s clear Councils are committing their own valuable resources
from already-stretched budgets to offset the impact of Universal Credit and to
prepare for the damage its roll out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the Government should immediately
pause the roll out of Universal Credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”