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Latest ARCH/NFA report highlights burden of debt caused by Universal Credit roll-out 19/07/2018 Labelled as Rent, Scrutiny, Regulation, Tenants

In the latest of a series of joint reports, ARCH and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) have highlighted the increasing burden of debt that Universal Credit (UC) is causing for tenants and landlords, and we call for the Government to slow down the roll-out and fix the outstanding problems with UC.  We also voice strong concerns about the length of time it is taking tenants to get control of their finances after the initial transfer to UC, and the impact on council Housing Revenue Accounts.


Our report 'Carrying the debt, Measuring the impact of welfare reform on tenants and landlords' has tracked the impact of the UC roll-out on landlords and tenants again this year. Although we are pleased the Government has introduced improvements that we called for in our previous report, including removing the 7-day waiting period, our latest research shows that the arrears situation has not changed significantly and issues highlighted previously have not been resolved.


Key findings include:


  • Average rent arrears for UC households (£520) were one and a half times higher than arrears in general (£328). Nearly three quarters of UC households were in rent arrears (74%) compared with 26% of all households.
  • The situation has not changed significantly since 2017 and many of the same problems remain. 
  • For those organisations tracked over time there has been a total increase in debt of 12% up to £43.6 million; 25% of this debt is from UC households even though they only make up 4% of total households.
  • The length of time it can take for tenants to clear rent arrears built up in the transition to UC, with the knock-on effects for both the tenants and landlord, is very concerning, with evidence that it can take up to 24 months to clear the debt. 



ARCH and the NFA support the principles of UC and our members are investing significant resources to make it work and support tenants in the transition to UC. We are therefore pleased, that our members report positive working relationships with local Job Centres; and positive feedback around the new Landlord Portal. 


However, we have deep concerns around the scalability of this work, as the roll out of UC accelerates and substantially more people transfer to UC, with intensive support stretched over increasing numbers of households, and a cumulative impact on local authority HRAs.


We continue to call on the Government to move to monthly payments in advance, rather than arrears, to recognise the fact that claimants often do not have a safety net to get them through the first month; and recognising the fact that the current advance system is a loan, which further puts claimants into debt. We are also calling for the Government to slow down the speed of UC roll-out, until the procedural issues with the existing system have been resolved and improvements are made to the "APA" system and Landlord Portal; and to implement a wide-reaching advertising campaign to educate the general public about UC  


Commenting on the launch of the report, John Bibby, ARCH Chief Executive said:


"Our members are investing heavily in supporting tenants to successfully transition to UC, however the level of rent arrears being accrued is having a huge impact on Council HRAs, which are already under pressure. It will not be possible to sustain the levels of intensive support to tenants as the roll-out continues and resources become increasingly stretched. For this reason, we are calling on the Government to provide sufficient transitional funding for landlords to enable them to effectively manage the roll-out and adequately support vulnerable tenants.


We have submitted a copy of our latest report to Ministers and officials at the Department for Work & Pensions and will be seeking a meeting to discuss the findings of our report"



Read the full report " Carrying the debt"

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ARCH Member Comments 2 people like this

  • Calvin Seymour, Wokingham BC - 04 August 2018

    Hi as an involved I find the work you are doing is of great help to me, and I would like to thank you for all the
    hard work you are doing with UC.