Letter to the BBC:
Well done to Catrin Nye for exposing the misery of tenants, the plight of Social landlords and Private landlords.
There was a little more emphasis on Social landlords, and the fact that government funding is going towards assisting claimants of Housing allowance for Council – Local Authority Housing as a priority (not private landlords), wasn’t picked up.
The knock on impact of Council Tax for all residents could have been calculated – even any reductions in Council services because of their income shortfall could have been touched upon.
The reason for this message is that Universal Credit is actually affecting everyone, including working families paying their Council Tax.
There were in the majority if not all the examples in the programme, failures by claimants to attend Job centre interviews regarding their claims (and in any fair system, some sanction should be expected) There was no explanation for these missed appointments.
A point where sympathy, of which there is considerable, weakened for some of the claimants portraying hardship (which there isn’t doubt) is that keeping a larger breed of dog, or large tropical aquariums, whilst other claimants mention difficulties with electricity bills, isn’t really congruent.
The interview with MP Alok Sharma wasn’t very forceful but despite this, he could be seen to squirm.
All said, the underlying aim of Universal Credit isn’t criticised. For any tax-payer, it would be ludicrous to suggest benefit claimants should be better off on benefit than in work.
However, until Universal Credit is working as intended (and there is a long, long way to go, if that ever happens), immediate relief (Direct Housing payment) without destroying the principles is required in a speedier and greater number of cases.
I spoke with some Department for Work and Pensions Universal Credit staff who said that where Direct payment was made, it was being reviewed after 3 to 6 months as a maximum, with a view to restoring full Universal Credit payment to the claimant (who are hardly likely to have recovered from arrears which caused the direct payment)
A follow-up programme of an hours duration is required.