DWP: Councils warn benefit freeze and Universal Credit make more people homeless

Nine out of 10 councils say a litany of Tory welfare reforms will push more people into homelessness, a damning report shows

From The Mirror-

‘Nine in 10 councils say the benefit freeze and Universal Credit rollout will force more people into homelessness, a damning report reveals today.

Town halls blasted Tory welfare reforms in an annual survey of cash-strapped authorities across England.

The Homelessness Monitor found the refusal to raise housing benefit since 2016 is straining services – with more than three-quarters of councils in the north and Midlands reporting rising demand.

Some 59% of councils said the four-year freeze to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) – the name for housing benefit paid in the private sector – will “significantly increase” homelessness.

A further 32% said it would “slightly increase” homelessness. Just 7% said it would have little impact and 2% said it would reduce it.

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Benefits have been largely frozen since 2016 and Universal Credit is rolling out(Image: UIG via Getty Images)

One council said the freeze has been a “huge factor in the increase in homelessness” while another warned there was a “massive mismatch” between benefit rates and market rent.

Separately, councils also claimed Universal Credit – which faces complaints about payment delays – would push people closer to losing their homes.

Some 65% expected the full rollout of the six-in-one benefit up to 2023 to “significantly increase” homelessness, with another 25% predicting a slight increase.

Just 10% of councils said the six-in-one benefit’s rollout would have little impact – and zero said it would cut homelessness.

It came as new figures yesterday revealed the number of people on Universal Credit has now passed 2million for the first time.

The total soared by 200,000 in April, including thousands of existing benefit claimants who switched to UC without transition payments due to a change in their circumstances.

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Critics say benefit reforms and delays have pushed people to food banks(Image: PA)

Homelessness charity Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank commissioned the survey of councils by Heriot-Watt University.

The report welcomed recent improvements to UC by the Tories but warned: “Widespread system errors [are] in some cases causing destitution.”

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes demanded “urgent investment” in LHA and benefits so people can afford their rent.

He said: “This can’t go on.

“No one should have to face impossible choices like buying food and essentials or paying their rent, or worse still, live in fear that they might never escape the devastation of homelessness.”

JRF chief executive Campbell Robb added: “A home should be the anchor that keeps you from being swept into homelessness, poverty and destitution in hard times.

A view from Blackpool Tower in Blackpool, UK
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes demanded “urgent investment” in LHA and benefits(Image: Alamy)

“For too many people, the prospect of such a stable home is a distant dream due to high rents, unstable tenancies and an income that doesn’t allow you to build a better life.”

Councils also attacked the wider freeze on working-age benefits – including jobseekers’ allowance and some rates of Employment and Support Allowance.

Some 51% said the wider benefit freeze would significantly raise homelessness, 39% said it would slightly raise it, and 10% said it would have little impact or decrease it.

Meanwhile 91% of councils said the £20,000-a-year cap on total benefits (£23,000 in London) would raise homelessness.

The survey of 167 councils in England was carried out in October and November 2018.

A Government spokesperson said: “Each year we spend around £23 billion to help people with their housing costs. We have targeted extra funding at low-income households in areas where rents are placing most pressure on budgets, and given local authorities £1 billion since 2010 to further support vulnerable claimants.

“With Universal Credit, housing costs can be paid directly to landlords to help people manage their money and many people take up this support.

“We continue to tackle the root causes of homelessness, committing £1.2 billion of funding so far, as well as building more than 400,000 affordable homes since 2010.”’

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