Half of Universal Credit claimants are struggling to pay housing needs

Despite changes, Citizens Advice says Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on

Universal Credit claimants are fighting to keep a roof over their heads, according to a damning new report from Citizens Advice.

One in two people the charity helped were in rent arrears or struggling to meet mortgage payments. This figure has remained the same in spite of the wait for the first payment being reduced from six weeks to five.

According to the data, 60 per cent of people helped by Citizens Advice had also taken out advances while they waited for payment, with almost half (47 per cent) having no money left to pay creditors after essential living costs such as food, housing and transport.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that while changes had “improved things for many people, Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on”.  

The figures are just the latest in a lengthy war raging over Universal Credit. The long-delayed rollout suffered yet another setback in January when Amber Rudd, Work and Pensions Secretary, reduced the upcoming managed migration stage to a 10,000-person trial.

Chris Town, vice-chair of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), said the report demonstrated a further need for changes to be made.

He said: “One of the main drivers of rent arrears has been that tenants cannot routinely choose to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord at the start of a claim.

“This needs to be coupled with lifting the freeze on housing benefits and the housing element of Universal Credit. Housing cost support is simply not keeping up with the realities of rents in the private sector, despite them falling in real terms over the past year.”

RLA research in conjunction with Manchester Metropolitan University pointed the finger at caps on Local Housing Allowance Rate as one of the key drivers of homelessness in the private rented sector.