Roll out of Universal Credit benefit is already causing hardship to people in Milton Keynes

Labour council leaders have set up a hardship fund in readiness for chaos caused by this month's planned roll out of Universal Credit.
Labour council leaders have set up a hardship fund in readiness for chaos caused by this month's planned roll out of Universal Credit.

Labour council leaders have set up a hardship fund in readiness for chaos caused by this month’s planned roll out of Universal Credit.

Currently only 50 people are on Universal Credit in MK, but evidence shows their housing benefit has been badly affected.

Already the 50 people owe a total of £97,000 in rent - an average of more than £2,000 apiece.

Next year DWP plans to move all households in receipt of benefits on to Universal Credit.

MK Council has now allocated £367,000 of Housing Revenue Account money to create a Tenancy Sustainment Team.

A hardship fund of £10,000 will also be created.

This in addition to the £250,000 from the Council General Fund that has been created to support people facing UC problems in the private rented sector.

In Milton Keynes from this month (December 2018) UC is being rolled out as a full service meaning that any person making a claim for working age, income related benefits, apart from families with two children, will have to claim UC, which includes a housing cost element (currently known as Housing Benefit).

From January 2019 larger families will be included in UC and from July 2019, other households currently in receipt of benefits such as Housing Benefit will start to move on to UC.

The evidence from around the country is that rent arrears will increase as a result of the move to UC, said Labour’s Cabinet member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Nigel Long.

He said: “I am deeply worried about the potential impact of Universal Credit. The evidence from other areas is that it causes hardship and rent arrears. That is already the evidence here in Milton Keynes from the first 50 cases.

“In order to try and minimise the damage I have agreed to put £367,000 of council housing money into creating a high quality team of staff that can support tenants through the Universal Credit challenge so that they can secure the housing cost element of Universal Credit.”