Universal Credit: Rent Arrears

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th November 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education) 12:00 am, 13th November 2017

If he will make an assessment of the effect of the length of waiting time to receive universal credit on levels of rent arrears.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee

What assessment he has made of the effect of the length of waiting time to receive universal credit on levels of rent arrears.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Department for Work and Pensions is currently undertaking work to investigate the reality of rent arrears in universal credit. It aims to understand the true level of rent arrears for tenants, what is causing them, and any impacts universal credit may be having.

Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education)

New findings say that 49% of landlords are less likely to rent to those in receipt of universal credit. In Kirklees, only 121 social homes are available for the 9,700 people on the waiting list. What steps will the Minister take to prevent those on universal credit from being discriminated against?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady is right to ask the question, but alternative payment arrangements are available. We have listened carefully to housing providers and we are seeing improvements all the time.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee

I listened carefully to the Minister’s answer, and I wonder whether it would be of any surprise to her that the chief executive of a large housing authority in the north-west of England recently told me that the authority had arrears of more than £2 million from universal credit alone. Claimants in one authority in Yorkshire and Humber have average arears of more than £1,100 each. Why is that happening and what is she going to do about it?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We have to be careful not to scaremonger on this issue. A National Federation of Arm’s Length Management Organisations report says that three quarters of tenants who started to claim universal credit were already in arrears, and research shows that after four months the number of claimants in arrears has fallen by a third.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The single biggest problem for some welfare recipients who move into universal credit is their high level of debt. Can my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment tell me what he can do to take forward his idea of an interest-free period to resolve outstanding debt, and to promote the use of credit unions in advising strongly against the use of loan sharks, particularly in the run-up to Christmas?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

On behalf of the Minister for Employment, may I say that my hon. Friend makes a very important point? We do want people to address their levels of debt, and that is why we have this effective system of advance payments, which enables people to budget properly and to meet their debts.