‘Hideous effects’ of Universal Credit partly avoided in South Tyneside, say housing chiefs

The ‘hideous effects’ of the government’s controversial Universal Credit have been partly avoided in South Tyneside, say housing chiefs.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 30 May, 2019, 17:18
South Tyneside Homes centre, Rolling Mill Road, Jarrow

But bosses at South Tyneside Homes say they are continuing to see an increase in tenants’ rent arrears as the welfare policy is rolled out across the borough.

They say this has meant collecting income has become one of the ‘main challenges’ facing the organisation.

THE NEW SOUTH TYNESIDE HOMES CALL CENTRE, ROLLING MILL ROAD, JARROW

“We’re not seeing some of the hideous effects of Universal Credit that have been seen in some areas and we’re working really hard on that,” said Brian Scott, the organisation’s director of resources.

“Up until someone goes on Universal Credit, housing benefit is paid direct to the council and that makes collection of rents much easier.

“But under Universal Credit the claimant gets the rent paid to them and they have to pay to us.”

Mr Scott was speaking at yesterday’s meeting of STC’s Housing Performance Panel, which included the organisation’s end of year performance report for 2018/19.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

According to a report prepared for the panel, the borough has more than 2,200 Universal Credit claimants and is dealing with an average of 45 new claimants every week.

This added South Tyneside Homes currently had a rent arrears rate of 2.93 per cent at the end of 2018/19 – a ‘marginal’ increase from 2.9 per cent at the end of 2017/18.

A previous report for councillors claimed in December 68 per cent of households on Universal Credit were in rent arrears.

At the time, families claiming the controversial benefit owed back rent worth £834,490.

But of this, £650,315 was already owed before they switched to the new welfare system.

 

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service