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Universal credit: online system will leave tenants struggling

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Universal credit: online system will leave tenants struggling

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

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Seven in 10 people are not ready for the shift to the online system set to be imposed under the government's flagship reform of the benefits system, universal credit.

According to research from the National Housing Federation, there are fresh concerns that people on low incomes will struggle to access UC's digital service, with four in 10 people (40%) affected by the changes having no internet access at all.

The NHF's study, conducted by Ipsos MORI, found that:

  • 30% of tenants would not be confident making a benefit application online.
  • 92% would prefer benefits to be paid direct to their landlord rather than their own accounts, one of the new conditions under UC.
  • 68% of those who manage money on a short term basis are not confident budgeting monthly.
  • Only one in seven (16%) even know about the changes.

UC, which is due to be rolled out nationally by 2017, replaces six existing welfare payments, including housing benefit, with a single, monthly household lump sum.

At present, the majority of housing association tenants receiving housing benefit choose to have it paid directly to their landlord rather than their bank accounts.

The NHF has warned that the switch to paying housing benefit directly to tenants could end up with many families falling behind with their rent.

NHF chief executive David Orr said: “We support the aims of UC to simplify the system and make work pay. We are concerned that the transition to the new system will put many tenants at risk.

“An overwhelming majority of tenants want to have the choice to have their housing costs paid to their landlord and a large proportion are faced with the additional challenge of not having access to the internet. For people living with financial stress every day, this rational choice secures your home and reduces the stress.

“With two thirds likely to struggle with monthly budgeting, there is a risk that without the right support, many could end up unable to pay for essentials and fall behind on their rent.

“If you are living on a low income, there is a huge difference between budgeting weekly and monthly. The consequences of running out of money for several days at the end of a month are much more severe than running short for a day at the end of the week.”

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