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SFHA demands halt to Universal Credit

This news post is about 7 years old

​SFHA makes call to suspend controversial scheme in the wake of the Smith Commission

Universal credit must be suspended, a leading housing body has warned in the wake of the Smith Commission’s report.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) gave a reserved welcome to the report’s recommendations while saying it reinforces the need to suspend the roll-out of the controversial scheme in Scotland.

Universal credit means the consolidation of benefits into one payment - and poverty campaigners have warned it could have dire consequences for claimants.

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the SFHA, who gave evidence to the public plenary of the Smith Commission during its deliberations, said the report does not go as far as it and many other civic organisations had called for.

However she said the report contained some progress on housing and on energy, while addressing urgent concerns about the impact Universal Credit will have on tenants and social landlords.

“New powers on varying the housing cost elements of universal credit do not mean the abolition of the bedroom tax, but they could lead to it,” she said.

And powers to allow rent to be paid directly to social landlords would be significant in tackling financial difficulties that universal credit has already been creating in its pilot areas in Scotland, said Taylor.

A rushed approach puts at risk the incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society

She added however: “There is still a distance to travel.

“These powers need to be made real, and then they need to be used and used quickly, if they are to fulfil the promise of today’s recommendations from the Smith Commission.

“So the next steps of this process are vital, and that is why we are repeating our urgent calls on the Westminster Government to suspend the roll-out of Universal Credit in Scotland.

“Only yesterday, the National Audit Office highlighted problems with the roll-out of universal credit.

"If the scheme is rolled out in Scotland imminently, more benefit recipients (including tenants of social landlords) will be caught up in “a messy bureaucracy” of rolling back whichever aspects of universal credit that may be devolved, said Taylor.

“A rushed approach puts at risk the incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, especially if changes subsequently have to be unpicked,” she said.

An accelerated roll out of universal credit to single claimants is due to commence in February 2015 to 77 local authorities – nine of them Scottish.

This first tranche will be followed by three further tranches to complete the roll out across the UK by April 2016.

Meanwhile, Graeme Brown Shelter Scotland director, welcomed thedevolution of income tax as well as powers to abolish the bedroom tax.

“It is critical that the new powers for the Scottish Parliament are used to tackle poverty and inequality generally and poor housing and homelessness specifically," he said.

However he warned: “There is a long way to go before these proposals become a reality for people across Scotland and our priority remains helping Scotland’s most vulnerable tackle bad housing and homelessness.”



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