UK & World News

  • 9 December 2013, 11:46

Landlords 'Avoid Tenants On Universal Credit'

Sky News has obtained figures which suggest a rising number of landlords are steering clear of benefit claimants over fears of non-payment.

The data from the National Landlords' Association shows the number of landlords letting to people on benefits has halved to just one in five.

And 52% of landlords say they would not even consider letting to someone on benefits because of those who do, seven out of 10 have experienced rent arrears in the past 12 months averaging £3,000 each.

Sky's political correspondent Anushka Asthana said: "The Government's flagship welfare reform forces people to budget by paying their benefits in one monthly lump sum.

"It has been dogged by difficulties amid accusations of weak management and a timetable that keeps on slipping.

"Now fears are rising about the human consequences of this massive reform."

It comes as the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is due to be questioned by MPs over the delays implementing the Universal Credit Scheme, which combines six means-tested benefits into one monthly payment.

Last week, Mr Duncan Smith admitted the 2017 target for the full introduction of Universal Credit was to be missed - with around 700,000 claimants facing a longer wait.

And last month, the Commons Public Accounts Committee found that at least £140m had already been wasted on the project, which was heavily criticised for being blighted by "alarmingly weak" management.

Speaking ahead of his appearance before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, Mr Duncan Smith told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We could easily have tried to rush those people in but we have decided not to.

"They are the people who don't have any work requirement on them and they have had the biggest change going through the work capability assessment and therefore they need time to get through.

"I think it is only fair to give them longer."

Ministers have claimed the initial roll-out of Universal Credit - which combines six means-tested benefits into one monthly payment designed to ensure people are better off working than on benefits - has been a success.

They point to figures suggesting it is encouraging more people to look for jobs in what Mr Duncan Smith described as a "cultural shift".

Labour said official figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility showed that only a tiny fraction of the numbers due to be using the new system by the time of the next general election would be transferred on time.

It added that only a "handful" of the promised 1.7 million would be switched by 2014/15 and only 400,000 by the following year - less than 10% of the original target.

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