Universal Credit roll out in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft has caused people to “slip through the net”

The official opening of Herring House, a new hostel for the homeless. Front exterior. Picture: Nick

The official opening of Herring House, a new hostel for the homeless. Front exterior. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Sam Russell

People have 'slipped through the net' during the roll out of a new benefits system, according to a homeless hostel.

Great Yarmouth was chosen as a pilot area for the government's new Universal Credit (UC) last spring.

It replaced six other welfare allowances, including housing benefit, with a monthly instead of fortnightly payment.

It was tested in Yarmouth and then later in Lowestoft.

However issues with the claims process have caused delays of over eight weeks for some people.

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Some landlords have been forced to evict tenants and in the most extreme cases meaning some people have been made homeless.

Lesley Cains is client services manager at the Herring House Trust, a homeless hostel in Yarmouth.

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She said the numbers of people who came through their doors needing help had increased steadily recently.

'It comes in waves,' she added. Since the change in the benefits system I think a lot of people have slipped through the net.

'Here you get more people presenting now who have not got up and running with any benefits, which I think is down to UC.'

In December a government minister defended the UC roll out in Great Yarmouth, and blaming benefit claimants for the problems.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council wrote to work and pensions secretary Damian Green in November about the problems caused by the delays in paying UC.

In a letter responding to the council, Mr Green said the roll-out of the new system had been 'carefully planned', but admitted there were 'areas for improvement.'

But he said some of the delays were being caused by claimants 'not providing the required evidence' for their claim despite 'repeated requests' which meant job centre staff were having to chase them.

Meanwhile dozens of people are sleeping rough in Yarmouth town centre.

According to figures released by the housing charity Shelter, there are 154 homeless people in Great Yarmouth, putting it in the top 20 in the region.

However the true figure is likely to be much higher, the so-called hidden homeless, who are not known to the authorities.

Are you affected by the benefits changes? Email george.ryan@archant.co.uk

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