Universal Credit claimants in Fife struggling to pay rent

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The impact of Universal Credit has been blames for sending Fife’s rent arrears spiralling through the £2m barrier.

Officers told Fife Council’s assets and corporate services committee last week the bill had jumped from £1.7m to £2.2m – with the controversial new system blamed.

Les Robertson, head of revenue and commercial services, told the committee that managing the impact of Universal Credit was a challenge.

He said: “The way people are paid doesn’t fit the structure of paying rent.

“Some people are waiting six to eight weeks to even see their first payment, then we are averaging 12-18 weeks before we see a rent payment.

“We’ve hired ten dedicated Universal Credit officers on temporary 18-month contracts to visit claimants, make sure they are claiming for everything they are entitled to, give them additional support and encourage them to sign up to pay rent by direct debit.”

The council has around 5500 tenants claiming Universal Credit. round 60% of tenants who moved to the new system were already in rent arrears, adding to the problems.

Added Les: “While the DWP is listening to complaints, we don’t think the system is going to change and all we can do is mitigate the problems.”