Charities and landlords’ group demand government publish assessment of cutting universal credit

‘We believe that the UK government should reverse its decisions to cut universal credit and to freeze local housing allowance’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 17 August 2021 00:01

Ministers are facing demands to publish a full assessment of removing the £20-per-week universal credit uplift, as a coalition of organisations issued a warning about the impact on renters.

With just two months remaining until the government removes the extra support – introduced at the onset of the pandemic – the groups stressed it risked pushing households in poverty and problem debt.

The organisations, including homelessness charity Crisis, The Big Issue, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and the debt charity StepChange, urged the government to reverse the decision in a joint statement.

Coupled with a freeze in local housing allowance, they warned: “We have seen no assessment from the UK government on the impact of either of these policies will have on the capacity of recipients to cover rent payment.”

It comes after Conservative MPs raised the alarm over the imminent cut to universal credit last month, and a former senior adviser to Boris Johnson told The Independent it would be an “unnecessary evil” with thousands of families still struggling.

Pointing to government figures, the coalition of groups said the number of private rented households in receipt of the housing element of universal credit increased by 107 per cent between February 2020 and February 2021.

“Over 55 per cent of these households have a shortfall between the housing support they receive and the rent they have to pay,” the groups stressed.

They said: “As organisations representing landlords, letting agents, tenants, people facing homelessness, and debt advice services, we are calling on the UK government to complete and publish a full assessment of the impact of both these policies on the ability of renters to meet their housing costs.”

“We believe that the UK government should reverse its decisions to cut universal credit and to freeze local housing allowance,” the coalition of groups added.

“To apply policies like these without doing any meaningful impact assessment is, we argue, lacking the necessary foresight and consideration of the impact they will ahem on people’s security of tenure and well-being and for many will threaten their chance of recovery.”

According to a freedom of information request submitted by The Independent earlier this year, the Department for Work and Pensions has conducted an impact assessment of removing the universal credit uplift, but declined to release the work, citing an exemption.

Speaking ahead of the summer recess, cabinet minister Therese Coffey told MPs that the uplift would be removed in the autumn, insisting a “collective decision was made that as we see the economy open up, we shift the focus strongly onto getting people into work and jobs”.

Mr Johnson also suggested that as the government lifted Covid-19 restrictions, “the emphasis has got to be on getting people into work and getting people into jobs”.

“If you’re going to make a choice between more welfare or better, higher-paid jobs, I’m going to go for better, higher-paid jobs.”

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