Universal Credit:

Universal Credit (UC), introduced by the UK Government in 2013, is to replace six other benefits and tax credits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. It is currently being rolled-out in stages across the United Kingdom.

The Housing Benefit element is wrapped with the other benefit payments and normally paid direct to the tenant.

However, a break away from this policy in England and Wales, last week Scottish Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman, announced that recipients of the Universal Credit benefit will have the choice of making the housing element directly payable to their landlord. This provision will be available to tenants who let property from private landlords or those in social housing.

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This is something that private landlords and landlord groups have been pressing for, over many years. It seems to have been brought to a head, and Scotland appears to have grasped the nettle on this, when UC and direct payments are applied to social tenants. Local authorities are experiencing high levels of rent arrears where payments are made direct to tenants.

In addition, in Scotland, recipients of Universal Credit will be given the option of having their benefits paid on a bi-monthly basis, rather than monthly, as currently determined by the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP).

Scotland’s Social Security Minister, Jeane Freeman, said:

“As part of the social security consultation exercise last summer, we heard directly from people that paying the housing element of Universal Credit direct to landlords and receiving more frequent payments would be two important improvements to the DWP approach. These are issues that people have repeatedly raised with us, highlighting the problems the current system can cause for budgeting.

“I am delighted therefore that I am able to address these concerns and go further, by extending the direct payment option to tenants with private landlords, and deliver these flexibilities for people in Scotland.

“People claiming Universal Credit want to have a choice about how the housing element part of the payment is paid – we have listened to that wish and are now taking action to make sure it happens as quickly as possible.”

The announcement of greater flexibility for the Universal Credit payments marks the first use of the Scottish Government’s new social security powers as outlined in the Scotland Act 2016. A consultation is to be launched later this month on further regulations.

Find up-to-date information on Universal Credit here

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