CABINET CALL: Coun Christine Lawton on Universal Credit
This week will mark four months having passed since the government’s welfare reform, Universal Credit, was rolled out to the majority of postcodes across the South Holland district.
For claimants Universal Credit has now replaced the following benefits:
• Housing benefit;
• Jobseekers allowance (income-based);
• Employment and support allowance (income-related);
• Income support;
• Child and working tax credits.
These benefits, including any housing costs which are paid for such as rent, are now paid directly into claimants’ personal bank accounts once a month. Paying rent on time should always be a priority and there are a multitude of ways in which this can be done for any residents in council housing.
Once one of our tenants starts receiving Universal Credit, the responsibility for paying rent will fall with them, but there are a variety of ways in which SHDC can help. One of the best ways to manage this change is to set-up rent payments to the council through direct debit or standing order on the day that payment is received.
There is also the option to, where possible, make small extra payments to rent accounts before making the switch over to Universal Credit. This is a good way to reduce any fears about getting into arrears after making the switch and should make any transitional period a little bit easier.
The need to consider budgeting is of huge importance with the monthly payments of Universal Credit, whether that’s how much you spend on a TV or magazine subscription or how many drinks you have at the pub on a Friday night.
There is some great information to help with this online, such as at the Money Advice Service
You can also speak to your SHDC housing officer if you would like a personalised budgeting appointment setting up with Citizens Advice.
The place to go to claim Universal Credit and manage your account will be online. There is free internet access and staff support with making your claim available at the South Holland District Council Offices on Priory Road in Spalding. Libraries across the district also have computers with internet available for you to use.
Ultimately I’m afraid that if you don’t pay your rent, you risk losing your home, and that is something that none of us want to happen. We can help you prepare to make the switch and it is important that you let us know your monthly payment date and the amount you have been awarded. In certain cases, we can request direct payment of your housing element in order to remove that pressure.
If any help or advice is needed then tenants should speak to their designated housing officer, who will be more than happy to help. More information on Universal Credit and how to claim can be found on our designated webpage: www.sholland.gov.uk/universalcredit