With the full roll-out of Universal Credit set for another delay, a DWP minister maintains the ‘reform’ is reducing rent arrears.
Responding to a written Commons question, DWP Will Quince confirmed related research will be extended to “a number of housing providers”.
But Universal Credit has to take another roll-out delay, with a push back to September 2024 – adding some £500m to its overall cost.
Branded by the Commons Work & Pensions Committee as one of the worst examples of welfare reform “in the history of humankind”, Universal Credit was meant to be fully live by April 2017.
DWP officials acknowledge the latest delay as down to slower-than-expected transfers of claimants from existing benefits – with the “transitional protection” expected to cost some £500m over the next five years.
Quince confirmed the delay, saying more time was needed to transfer the final 900,000 claimants.
In a written Commons question, the SNP’s Neil Gray asked what assessment the DWP had made over the effect of Universal Credit’s five-week first-payment wait on levels of homelessness.
Quince said the DWP’s own analysis shows Universal Credit reduces rent arrears, supporting research carried out by the National Federation of ALMOs, which shows over three-quarters of their tenants come onto Universal Credit with pre-existing rent arrears.
“It also shows that arrears tend to increase prior to making a claim for Universal Credit, and that Universal Credit actually appears to be helping to clear arrears over time.
“We are currently extending this analysis to include a number of housing providers – it will be published when completed,” said Quince.
Another written Commons question, from Labour’s Mike Amesbury, had Quince denying the DWP asked claimants to sign waivers outlining any previous communication with a political representative regarding benefits before accessing appeals information.
Quince maintained that “at no point” during a Universal Credit claim was a claimant asked to sign a waiver.
But the DWP did ask representatives making enquiries on behalf of others to demonstrate that they have claimant consent.
“This is a simple process, which can be completed online or by telephone by the claimant, and has been in place since 2017,” said Quince.
“We need to ensure a high level of security and protection exists to combat unscrupulous individuals and organisations who try to access the information and seek to impersonate genuine representatives,” he said.