Food banks HQ links with lettings group to combat Universal Credit arrears
The Trussell Trust, which coordinates the vast majority of the food banks around the UK, is working with the National Landlords Association to highlight problems caused by benefit claimaints’ five weeks wait for Universal Credit.
In a blog post announcing the link, NLA policy and public affairs officer Jake McKey says the association’s research has revealed that 86 per cent of landlords letting to tenants on Universal Credit experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months.
“The average amount owed is now £2,105, but this increases dramatically for Universal Credit claimants, to £3,842” explains McKey, who says this is roughly four months worth of rent.
“This far surpasses the minimum two-month arrears for which tenants could be evicted under a section 8 notice for breach of contract. This is a situation in need of urgent change” he adds.
“In circumstances such as this, many claimants have no choice but to take out advances in order to support themselves, which leaves both landlords and tenants with no choice but to take on additional debt in order to cover their costs, resulting in a situation that works for no one” he says.
One consequence is that fewer landlords will accept benefit claimant tenants – recent NLA research says only one in five landlords would now do so.
Trussell Trust research shows a 52 per cent average increase in food bank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months compared to 13 per cent in areas that have not.
Working with the NLA, the Trussell Trust wants government to end the current freeze on Housing Benefit rates, and reduce or eliminate both the intentional and unintentional delays and gaps in benefits.
It says UC is now the main driver in the increase in usage of food banks across the country.