New welfare system leaves people in Lowestoft unable to pay their rent

Lowestoft Job Centre. Photo: Google Maps

Lowestoft Job Centre. Photo: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

The introduction of a new welfare system has left an increasing number of people in Lowestoft unable to pay their rent.

Claimants say they have been waiting months to receive payments and Waveney District Council claims it has seen an increase in rent arrears since the system was introduced.

Universal Credit is a welfare payment which is to replace six other benefits with one monthly payment. Waveney Council has been one of the authorities to start rolling out the new payment scheme since May 2016.

A Waveney spokesperson said: 'Following the introduction of full service Universal Credit in Lowestoft in May, Waveney District Council has experienced an increase in rent arrears with both council housing and temporary accommodation.'

Janet John, chief executive, North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau, said because of the way money is distributed through the new system, one of the biggest problems had been with rent payments. She added: 'There's increased issues for landlords, local authorities and private landlords. It's always the rent that suffers.'

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Paul Cunningham, chairman of the Eastern Landlords' Association, said: 'It's a disaster, tenants are being evicted simply because of Universal Credit.'

The spokesperson for Waveney Council added: 'Waveney District Council is actively working in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions and Lowestoft Job Centre to support customers and communities with these changes to ensure Universal Credit is a success.'

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The Department for Work and pensions said: 'Reasons for rent arrears are complex so it's misleading to link them to any one issue. The reality is that under Universal Credit, claimants are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

'The majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money and we provide budgeting support as well as benefit advances, and can arrange for rent payments to be made direct to landlords if needed.'

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