REVEALED: Dundee council tenants on Universal Credit owe £200 more in rent

Members of Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network protest the ‘roll-out’ of Universal Credit outside Dundee JobCentre

Council tenants who receive Universal Credit owe £200 more in rent than those who do not, new figures show.

Data obtained via a freedom of information request shows Dundee City Council tenants who receive the new-style benefit owe on average £617.40 in rent arrears.

In comparison, those not in receipt of Universal Credit (UC), who may still receive “old-style” payments such as housing benefit, owe an average of £415.

“Full service” UC rolled out in Dundee in November, with 575 social tenants currently in receipt of it.

Mary Kinninmonth, director of Dundee’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), said UC remains a “flawed” system despite changes by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), adding: “The DWP needs to look in detail at what’s being said by agencies on the frontline.”

Mary KinninmonthThe number of UC issues dealt with by the CAB more than doubled in the last quarter. The majority of queries related to either claims or backdated payments.

Ms Kinninmonth said many people in work were continuing to claim, indicating UC may not be working. She added: “In the longer term, it will be worth seeing if it’s making the difference it’s supposed to.”

Graeme Brown, director of housing charity Shelter Scotland, said UC continues to put “substantial pressure” on tenants, and that a rethink was still in order. He added: “The delay before the benefit is paid puts people into rent arrears. It can be enormously stressful for people to find themselves in debt when their budget is so tight that they have little prospect of catching up.”

A spokesman for the council said the authority was providing a “considerable” amount of support to UC claimants. He said: “If a tenant is having difficulties paying their rent we strongly advise them to seek advice as soon as possible from the corporate debt team. Staff there can offer assistance.”

The DWP said new measures were set to be introduced to ease pressure felt by struggling claimants. These include cutting waiting times and covering housing benefit payments for an interim period.

A spokeswoman said: “The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money but we’re increasing support to help the people who need it to stay on top of their payments.”