I do not want to repeat things that have already been said. I want to concentrate on the impact that universal credit is having on homelessness and the potential for the eviction of private tenants. In my experience from my constituents, the delay in assessment of cases has undermined and threatened the tenancies of a considerable number of people. When housing benefit administration was part of the local authority, there was an officer responsible for preventing homelessness. In my case, I am fortunate that Mr Langley has been in charge of the housing department for as long as I have been the MP for Mitcham and Morden. When I had a problem with a constituent being threatened with homelessness, he would go down to housing benefit and say, “You’ve got to get on top of this case and process this claim.”
That intervention is no longer happening. Most of the constituents I see are in work. They all go to work but have no opportunity to earn the sort of money that would pay a private rent, often in the region of £1,200 or £1,500 a month. It does not take many weeks for people to find that they have got behind by hundreds or thousands of pounds, and for it to feel impossible that they will ever get on top of that. Officers of Jobcentre Plus and researchers may tell Ministers all sorts of things, but my experience is that when I recently attended a private landlords forum and asked, “Does universal credit make it more or less likely that you will rent your property to someone dependent on assistance with their rent?”, they said that universal credit made it universally less likely they would do so. The consequence in the housing market, where social housing vacancies are reducing by the week, will be devastating. As a result of poor and slow processing of universal credit, local authorities are, and will be, picking up large families in temporary accommodation—at huge cost to the taxpayer, apart from the misery involved.