Benefit pilot leaves most in rent arrears

Universal Credit claimants in Wigan are much more likely to be in rent arrears and owe four times as much money as fellow tenants, Greater Manchester’s mayor has said.


The damning verdict on the controversial benefits pilot scheme was revealed in a letter by former Leigh MP Andy Burnham to the region’s parliamentarians.

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

A total of 80.4 per cent of the borough’s council tenants who are involved in the Universal Credit roll-out owe money for rent, compared with just 36.7 per cent not in the pilot scheme.

Those on the new benefit arrangements also owe an average of £448.34 whereas those on standard tenancies are just £124.13 behind on payments.

Mr Burnham urged MPs to highlight the issues with the pilot scheme in debates.

He said: “My view is that, while there is a sound argument for simplifying the benefit system, at present Universal Credit is not delivering its stated aims.

“The reality is that claimants are falling deeper into debt, accruing significant rent arrears, facing potential eviction and suffering undue stress and worry.

Quicker and more frequent payments are necessary.

“The claims process is complicated and confusing, with many people failing to complete the process due to lack of digital skills.

“These are areas of significant and genuine concern, which is why I am calling for a pause in the roll out of Universal Credit.”

Mr Burnham said some people were having to wait up to 12 weeks to receive the first monthly payment and for too many people work did not pay.

He also said not receiving anything for the first seven days of their claim was “unfair” and “causing significant hardship”.