Lord Freud said: ‘Waiting days do not help in the introduction of universal credit.’ [Image: Getty].

Lord Freud admitted that problems with Universal Credit are causing low-income claimants to fall into arrears with their rent – but said the problem was not as severe as claimed and that research showed the number in arrears fell, the longer they were on Universal Credit.

The trouble with his claims is, he was quoting research by the Department for Work and Pensions, which is the government office behind Universal Credit and which is charged with making it look good – or, at least, acceptable.

Fake news? Alternative facts?

The former welfare minister Lord Freud has admitted to MPs that administrative problems and design issues with universal credit are causing around one in four low-income tenants to run up rent arrears, putting them at risk of eviction.

Freud, who has overseen the development of universal credit over the past six years, also suggested that the long formal waiting times faced by claimants before they receive a first payment when they move on to the new benefit should be shortened.

However, Freud, who stepped down from the government in December, said the arrears problem was not as severe as claimed by councils and housing associations, who have reported that typically 85% of tenants on universal credit are behind with the rent.

Asked what he would change about universal credit, Freud said some thought a 42-day wait was too long and suggested that a component of that wait, a seven-day benefit waiting period introduced by the Treasury in 2013, should be dropped. “Waiting days do not help in the introduction of universal credit.”

Freud told MPs that most of the tenants cited by housing associations were in arrears before they moved on to universal credit. He said Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own research suggested that the prevalence of rent arrears among universal credit tenants declined after three months on the new system.

The DWP research he referred to was published over a year ago and referred to a phone survey of 1,800 benefit claimants conducted between November 2014 and March 2015. It shows that the percentage of the 900 universal credit claimants surveyed who said they were in rent arrears fell from 48% to 33% after three months.

Source: Universal credit issues driving tenants into debt, ex-minister admits | Society | The Guardian

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