1. ITV Report

Welsh housing association tenants on Universal Credit in £2m rent arrear debt

Credit: PA

Welsh housing association tenants on Universal Credit are in more than two million pounds worth of debt.

The figures released by Community Housing Cymru show the average tenant claiming Universal Credit is in rent arrears of over £400.

A survey of nearly 7,000 people found 23% of them were not in arrears before they transferred to the new benefits system.

Universal Credit, which merges six benefits into one, has been introduced to 11% of claimants in Wales with the UK Government planning to transfer a further 350,000 households by 2023.

Andrew Hustler was laid off as a security officer in August and did not receive any money from Universal Credit until September 14.

Andrew Hustler's Universal Credit payments do not cover his rent. Credit: ITV News

My rent here is £425 per month, but my first payment for Universal Credit was £410.

Obviously I have got to get shopping, gas, electric and other little bits and pieces and it just wasn't enough to cover.

If you can't get your rent paid, they go through the eviction process, you go to court, and then it's the judge you decides whether you stay or you go.

– Andrew Hustler, Universal Credit claimant

Community Housing Cymru are calling for the UK Government to ensure the policy is fit for purpose before introducing it to more people in Wales.

The impact of Universal Credit is clear despite being only 11% rolled out in Wales.

Tenants are struggling to clear rent arrears caused by the initial financial shock of claiming Universal Credit, despite housing associations doing their best to support tenants with budgeting support and advice.

We urge DWP to reconsider plans to extend Universal Credit to 350,000 existing benefit claimants in Wales, to ensure that no one is financially disadvantaged by this change.

– Will Atkinson, Community Housing Cymru

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the cause of rent arrears cannot be attributed to a single cause.

Rent arrears are complicated and they cannot be attributed to a single cause.

Our research shows that many people join UC with pre-existing arrears, but the proportion of people with arrears falls by a third after four months on UC.

Anyone moving to UC from housing benefit is paid an additional two weeks of payment

– DWP spokesperson