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Universal Credit creating homelessness in Scotland

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Leading charity warns new system is creating greater levels of poverty and exacerbating homelessness

Draconian benefit cuts and administrative errors are creating homelessness, Shelter Scotland has warned.

In evidence submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee, the housing charity warned that universal credit combined with the benefit cap reduction as well as the cap on housing benefit by the UK government all “directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness”.

In its submission to MSPs, Shelter Scotland warned: “Shelter Scotland emphasises that our current housing system pushes too many people into homelessness, and recent welfare reforms are pushing more people further into poverty.

“The ongoing roll out of Universal Credit, the benefit cap reduction and the capping of housing benefit for social sector rents to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness. It is unlikely that the Scottish Government will be able to sustainably mitigate all of these changes.

“Simply put, homelessness is a product of our current housing system and recent and ongoing welfare reforms are exacerbating this problem.

“The way that the current social security system is set up and the direction of ongoing change means that many parents cease to receive support for children once they are 18 and therefore many feel the need to ask older children to leave the family home.

“However, once they do this, the household can in some cases in the social sector become liable for the bedroom tax due to “under-occupying” the property, thus putting both the parents and children at financial disadvantage.

“Social security problems are a significant source of difficulty to household tenancy sustainment through delays, admin errors, reducing periods in which to claim backdated payments, spot checks and suspension of payments during random investigations.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “This is a serious intervention that exposes just how disastrous Tory cuts to welfare have been.

“The SNP in government wants to end rough sleeping, and have reformed the private rented sector to provide tenants with greater security and give councils the power to tackle rip-off rents.

“But the UK government shouldn’t be let off the hook – the Tories need to urgently call a halt to their cuts and stop driving families into poverty and homelessness.”

First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a £50 million fund to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in this month’s Programme for Government.