Homelessness has surged for seven years. And it’s clear who’s to blame

People sleeping rough in Marble Arch, London
 ‘If you cut and cap benefits, leave a snowballing housing crisis untouched and fail to question the specious morals of the market, it will have human costs.’ or

From the knuckles upwards, at least three of his fingers were missing. Frostbite last winter, he said. Some of his toes had gone too. Someone had found him unconscious with hypothermia, and he had spent months in hospital before once again living on the street. He said he needed £17 for a one-night stay in a hostel: I gave him a fiver and some cigarettes, and we talked some more.

 We had dealt with homelessness. Why has it now returned?

I was in Manchester, covering the Conservative party conference. With work over for the day, I had gone for dinner in the city’s so-called Northern Quarter, where people eat and drink in self-consciously fashionable bars and restaurants, and a steady stream of homeless people tend to circulate, asking for help.

The man sitting next to me at an outdoor table was a case in point. Until a few years ago, he said, he had lived with his mother in Wythenshawe, on the southern edge of the city. When she had died, their social-housing tenancy had ended, and when he had lost his last job everything had fallen to pieces.

When I got home, I was reminded that the viscerally human story he had told me was in line with research and statistics: 83% of single homeless people are reckoned to be men. The average age of death among homeless people is estimated to be 47, around 30 years below the figure for the population as a whole.

The scourge of homelessness and rough sleeping has been growing at speed. A snapshot count by the National Audit Office in autumn 2016 suggested that just over 4,100 people in England were sleeping rough, a figure that had increased by a massive 134% since 2010. At the same point, the number of households in temporary accommodation was reckoned to be 77,000, up 60% in six years.

Andy Burnham
 ‘Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says universal credit threatens to double his region’s number of rough sleepers.’ 

Some of these figures look like underestimates. In Greater Manchester, homelessness is said to have quadrupled since 2010. Homelessness charity Crisis estimates that in 2016 rough sleeping in the UK averaged around 9,000. What really matters, though, is that all of these problems are set to get much worse. A recent study by academics at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland said that if government policy remains as it is now, the number of homeless people in Britain will reach 575,000 by 2041, up from 236,000 in 2016. Over the same period, the number of people sleeping rough could top 40,000.

Little more than a year ago, the official approach to homelessness was still often stuck in a rut of punitive measures and apparent inhumanity: councils imposing fines for begging and rough sleeping, and endless talk of crackdowns and zero tolerance. Now, though, accompanied by a clear sense of political panic, there are the first signs of a thaw, not least at the top.

Yesterday, Theresa May returned to Manchester to seemingly exorcise the ghost of that awful conference speech, and announce a £3.8m contribution to something called the “Greater Manchester Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer” – a means of showing her approval for a new array of measures aimed at getting longlasting help to the region’s homeless people, many of them authored by Greater Manchester’s new Labour mayor, Andy Burnham.

Meanwhile, parliament has recently passed the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will supposedly ensure that councils have increased obligations to homeless people, not least when it comes to the single-person households who currently tend to fall through the net, or what remains of it.

Clearly, all this is proof that homelessness is newly intruding on politics, but it jars against two unavoidable questions. First, as evidenced by its meagre new pledges on social housing, why does the government still seem largely focused on symptoms, rather than causes? And when it comes to the latter, who is ultimately to blame?

The answer is terribly simple, embodied in the fact that all those homelessness statistics show a surge that began in 2010. The Conservative party has long had a streak of cold cruelty, and the obscenities of current homelessness are the result.

Where to even start? Of course, if you cut and cap benefits, leave a snowballing housing crisis untouched and fail to question the specious morals of the market, it will have human costs. When, as chancellor, George Osborne started slashing housing subsidies, hacking down housing benefit and restricting single people under 35 to the meanest of entitlements, where did he think it would all end up?

The answer is stark: Shelter reckons that 78% of the rise in homelessness over the last six years was due to people being evicted from privately rented homes, but that did not give anyone in power pause for thought.

Since 2016, rates of housing benefit paid to people in the private sector – set according to what’s called the local housing allowance, which the Tory/Lib Dem coalition pegged to the lowest third of local market rents, rather than the previous lowest half – have been frozen, while rents have carried on rising, not least in cities.

Worse still, from March 2019 the same limits will apply to housing benefit going to people living in social housing, which professionals say will have a dire impact on one group in particular: again, single people under 35. If they are lucky enough to live alone in, say, a one-bedroom flat in a tower block, they will suddenly have to find accommodation in the kind of shared houses that are lamentably thin on the ground. Not for the first time, you’d think you were looking at a policy designed specifically to increase homelessness.

The impact of benefit sanctions barely needs mentioning. And now comes universal credit, already rolled out in areas scattered across the country, and now set to be extended even further before its full introduction in 2022.

Private landlords are already refusing to let properties to people in receipt of the new benefit, for fear of their tenants going into arrears. Councils and housing associations say that the mandatory six-week gap between making a claim and receiving a first payment is leading to huge problems, and evictions directly related to the new system are already under way.

 Andy Burnham is giving part of his salary away. Should we all follow suit?

Cuts to the so-called working allowance will leave many people thousands of pounds a year worse off. There is palpable anxiety about the most awful of outcomes: life in emergency accommodation, or, if lives truly fall apart, on the street.

In Manchester, Burnham says universal creditthreatens to double his region’s number of rough sleepers. “If the rollout goes ahead as planned it will make our problem dramatically worse,” he says.

The words have an air of unintentional understatement, but they highlight two of 2017’s biggest stories: on the streets of our cities, everyday matters of life and death. And in Whitehall, a government seemingly lost in its own cruelties.

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Britain’s hidden scandal: the disabled people trapped in their own homes

Louise is a wheelchair user living in unsafe accommodation, unable to get out of her door. With a lack of accessible housing, her story is far from unique

woman wheelchair ramp
 ‘Louise has been told by a surveyor that the ramp is a ‘massive job’: a zigzag ramp going back and forth over the steep slope.’ 

When Louise regained consciousness on the bathroom floor last month, she woke up wedged between her wheelchair and the toilet. The blood on the tiles told her she’d had another seizure. “I could see the red,” she explains. The size of the room – so small she’s not able to shut the door against the toilet when her wheelchair is in it – meant she’d hit her head on the fall down.

 Period poverty is leaving women such as Kerry isolated and ashamed

Louise’s ordeal on that bathroom floor lasted a couple of hours but it’s a snapshot of how she’s been living for months. The 33-year-old has multiple health issues – a heart condition, renal problems and epilepsy – but for the last four months has been housed in a dangerously inaccessible council bungalow in Milton Keynes.

On top of its tiny size, the bathroom has no grab bars – the basic adaptation that would let a disabled person move safely. To get back into her wheelchair in order to reach her phone to call for help, Louise had to yank herself up from the floor by her arms, despite being concussed.

 Living with disabilities under austerity: ‘We’re treated worse than farm animals’

But things get worse still. When the ambulance came, Louise’s worry wasn’t the blood from her head but how she’d even be able to get to the hospital: there is no way for Louise and her wheelchair to get in and out of her home. Go to the front or back door of the bungalow and you’re greeted by a large step – a steep drop – and no ramp in sight. To get Louise to the hospital to have her head injury checked, the paramedics had to put her on a stretcher and carry her over the step.

This is Britain’s inaccessible housing scandal: disabled people injured in their own homes and housebound. Louise puts it brutally: “It’s like [being] a trapped animal.”

Theresa May’s pledge to build affordable housing last week was quickly dismissed as an empty promise. But the deficit in Britain’s accessible homes for disabled people was, as ever, not even worth a mention. There are now 1.8 million disabled people in England struggling to find accessible housing, according to research by the London School of Economics, with disability groups reporting parents falling down concrete stairs as they struggle to move their disabled children, or wheelchair users stuck in top-floor flats.

Until this summer, Louise had been getting by living in her mum’s house, but when her health got worse, the makeshift access became impossible: for years, the only way for Louise to get down the stairs from her bedroom was by bumping on her bottom, one step at a time. The bungalow was meant to be a temporary solution. It had a hoist set up – vital to help Louise move – as well as a hospital bed fitted with an emergency alarm. But there was no adapted bathroom – that’s no wet room, no space for a wheelchair or bars – or even a way for Louise to get in and out of the front door.

Milton Keynes council says that it was the hospital occupational therapy team that carried out the initial inspection before assigning the property to Louise and that at that stage, it didn’t highlight any access issues. But one conversation with Louise sitting in her wheelchair makes it clear that this place may as well be an assault course.

The kitchen is tiny, big enough to get a wheelchair in but not to turn around or move. The bathroom is taken up by a bath – useless given Louise’s accessbility and seizures (“My consultant says if I have a seizure [in the bath], I could drown”). Without a wet room, Louise’s only way to keep clean is to do a strip wash twice a day: a sponge, soap and bowl. To wash her hair, she sits in her wheelchair and hangs her neck over the bath as her mum – currently doing “everything” for Louise – stretches the showerhead to reach her.

That’s the added strain: Louise has no social care in place to help her wash, dress or cook meals. She cancelled the original carers sent by the council – she tells me that male carers would often turn up to help her dress, or she would be given a bed pan rather than help in the bathroom – and is applying for direct payments: the system that is meant to give disabled people the right to choose their own care. But she’s been told this could take months to come through. (The council says the direct payments process is still being followed but if and when it’s agreed, it should take two to three weeks to set up.)

 For Julia every month is a desperate fight to pay the bills. She’s a teacher 

Living like this is the definition of being stuck. Since moving into the bungalow in June, Louise has only been outside five times: each a visit to a doctor, physically carried out by ambulance staff. The ordinary parts of life – a friend wheeling her round the shops to look at handbags, or going for a coffee with her mum – have been taken from her. “I have to stay in. Permanently,” she says.

When I ask the council if there’s anywhere else to place Louise, they say they have no other wheelchair-accessible accommodation available and are “unable to predict when something will be available”. They’re not alone. The nation’s gutted social housing stock is routinely leaving councils with no accessible housing for disabled tenants, with wheelchair users up and down the country stuck in unsafe accommodation or holed up for months in a hotel room.

In desperation the other night, Louise found herself browsing Rightmove – a futile search for an affordable and accessible private rental. Before illness struck, Louise was earning a decent wage at John Lewis but now her only income is her disability benefits: nothing close to what she’d need for market rent. “They’re about £900 a month round here,” she says. “I’d have about a tenner a month to live on.”

A week after I first speak to Louise the council says adaptations, including a permanent ramp to the front door and a wet room, have now been approved and that all efforts are being made. But they cannot say either when the work will start or how long it will take. Louise has been told by a surveyor that the ramp is a “massive job”: a zigzag ramp going back and forth over the steep slope.

In the meantime, the closest Louise can get to the outside world is seeing it through glass. “I can go by the window and get in some sun,” she tells me.

She has been unwell over the weekend – the stress makes her heart condition worse – but hasn’t been to the doctor because she physically can’t get out. Louise admits she’s thought about writing to the prime minister in the hope someone will listen to her. “That’s how bad it is,” she says. “I’m in hell.”

SOURCE

Austerity policy blamed for record numbers of children taken into care

Fragmented approach to public services is damaging communities in England and punishing the poor, say council leaders

A boy playing on the street in Knowsley, Merseyside
 Children in the poorest areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care than those in wealthier areas, an ADCS report said.

Welfare reforms, reductions in family support services such as Sure Start, and rising poverty levels are fuelling record numbers of children being taken into care, local authority leaders have said.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said austerity policies and an increasingly fragmented approach to public services were taking a toll on communities and punishing the most economically fragile households.

“The unintended consequence of the government’s austerity programme has been to drive up demand for [child protection] services as more and more families find themselves at the point of crisis with little or no early help available,” it said in a report.

The ADCS president, Alison Michalska, said long delays for universal credit payments, alongside welfare policies such as the two-child limit and housing benefit cuts, were causing difficulties for poorer families struggling to pay for food and rent.

The latest official statistics show 72,000 children were in care in England at the end of March, up 3% on the previous year, and the ninth successive year that this number has increased.

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children assessed by social workers as as being in need rose by 5%, the number of children subject to a child protection plan increased by 29%, and numbers in care were up 10%.

Michalska, who is the director of children and adult services at Nottingham city council, said a growing number of families faced a bleak reality. She said more support was needed – including more flexibility in the benefits regime – to prevent families under the stress of poverty from spiralling into crisis.

“We are I think, I hope, beginning to see a move away from some aspects of austerity, which are welcome. But families living in deprived areas will continue to suffer unless some flexibility can be introduced to the currently inflexible benefits regime.

“For example, in some local areas in which universal credit has been rolled out the wait for benefits is, in some cases, exceeding six weeks which means that families are struggling to pay for basic essentials such as food and rent.

“The rigidity of the benefits system also compounds the impact of insecure, erratic and unstable employment. There is a real need for government to consider how the benefit system can reflect and deal with the issues that affect families today.”

Speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Bournemouth, she said that financial pressures in children’s services, the NHS, police and education, alongside reforms in health, education and social care were “all taking their toll on our communities”.

She added: “Providing help and support to children and families early is the only way to reduce demand for high-end statutory services and health and social care in the long run; not doing so is a false economy and, fundamentally, is not in children and young people’s best interests.”

An ADCS report, A Country That Works for All Children, said children living in the poorest areas of the country were 10 times more likely to be put on to a child protection plan or be subject to care proceedings than youngsters in wealthier areas.

Local authorities had suffered an average 40% cuts in funding since 2010, and a £2bn funding gap between demand for children’s services and available resources has emerged, it said. An estimated 600 youth centres closed between 2012 and 2016 while 1,200 children’s centres have shut since 2010.

The report added: “The symptoms of poverty are driving increased demand [for children’s services] and although councils continue to do their best to support vulnerable families and children, the lack of sustainable funding must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Robert Goodwill, minister for children and families, said: “Councils will receive more than £200bn for local services, including children’s social care, up to 2020. This is part of a historic four-year settlement which means councils can plan ahead with certainty.

We have invested £200m through our children’s social care innovation programme, providing councils and the voluntary and community sector with funding and support to develop new and better ways of delivering services for vulnerable children and families. As well as this I am also announcing up to £20m to support further improvement in children’s social care services.”

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Why I had to confront Jacob Rees-Mogg, and speak the truth about austerity

This potential Tory leader needs to know why a policy that has devastated the lives of millions – a policy he still champions – causes such outrage

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It is not just the hypocrisy of a man who is opposed to abortion yet profits from his investment firm’s sale of abortion pills; Rees-Mogg is despicable for defending austerity with washed-up myths and straight-up lies. That is why, when he attempted to engage in a debate with me – and particularly in view of the lack of coverage given to the mass opposition to austerity – it was important that I showed him the reality of that opposition.

Rees-Mogg was praised by some sections of the media for “politely taking on” protesters. But let’s be absolutely clear: this isn’t a gentleman’s debate: it is a material fight against a ruling class waging economic and political violence on working-class people. As nervous as I was, I knew that I had to voice the opposition to his views.

At a time when more than 8 million people are living in some form of food poverty, Rees-Mogg thinks that the exponential increase in people dependent on food banks is “uplifting”. Because that’s how out of touch he and his party are with the mass suffering they are inflicting. That is the sense that I got of him up close when he tried to claim that Tory policies of austerity had actually “lifted people out of poverty”.

The line that he used to justify austerity was that employment is at its highest levels since the 1970s, and the best route out of poverty. But the point I made (and which he ignored) is that the UK is the only advanced economy with stagnating wages. Seven years of the public-sector pay cap, the increase in zero-hours contracts and precarious employment, and the Tories’ clampdown – through the Trade Union Act – on the ability of workers to challenge unscrupulous employers (via the rise in tribunal fees and increased threshold for strike action) have meant that a huge proportion of people living in poverty are actually in work.

 Why Jacob Rees-Mogg for Tory leader is no laughing matter

According to data from the Trussell Trust, which runs half the food banks around the country, only 0.03% of people used food banks for the primary reason of being unemployed; 26% reported low income as their primary reason, and 43% pointed to delays or changes to their benefits.

If that isn’t a scathing indictment of austerity in itself – and, for the likes of Rees-Mogg, 4 million children living in poverty, or homelessness doubling since 2010, isn’t either – then what about the United Nations report that found the actions of the Tory government to be in violation of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as UK legislation? Or the study by the IMF – the architects of austerity – admitting that austerity does more harm than good?

There are those, such as the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley, who simply believe austerity entails collateral damage). That’s why it’s so important that the People’s Assembly shows the real damage being done, and the real opposition to the Tories, in a week that otherwise would have just been the Theresa and Boris show.

And that’s why it’s so important that we continue to challenge the Tories on the streets; continue to support public-sector workers, postal workers and fast-food workers taking industrial action; and continue to do everything possible to push the Tories out of office.

We need to avoid the “polite”, rhetoric-filled debates devoid of facts that Rees-Mogg would rather engage in, and communicate the widely felt outrage that there are millions of people suffering at the hands of the Tories, and fighting them head on.

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‘In a year, not one payment correct’: a council tenant on the misery of Universal Credit

In a revealing video, visually-impaired council tenant Jo King explains the impact of delays and mistakes since she’s been on universal credit

Newcastle council tenant Jo King
 Newcastle council tenant Jo King 

The government has been warned by councils, charities and now even its own backbenchers that universal credit is a social policy disaster. But how does it feel to be on the receiving end of this controversial benefits overhaul?

In the video, visually impaired council tenant Jo King, who lives on Newcastle’s Newbiggin Hall Estate, talks about dealing with delays and miscalculations ever since she was moved on to universal credit over a year ago. She explains how she has twice been left without any benefits at all. In order to survive, she was forced to stop paying her carer and request emergency food parcels.

Halt universal credit or rough sleepers will double, says Burnham

Her rent, which under a special arrangement is supposed to go direct to management organisation Your Homes Newcastle, has been consistently miscalculated, leaving her anxious and fielding regular calls from her rent officer.

King’s plight is not unusual. Newcastle city council’s own figures show that by the end of June, 86% of tenants in the city receiving universal credit have fallen into rent arrears and the council has warned the system is putting vulnerable residents at risk of destitution and homelessness. Before universal credit was rolled out, only 53% were in arrears.

 Universal credit is a social policy disaster in the making

The Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the UK, has also reported problems. In areas with full universal credit there has been a17% increase in referrals for food parcels, more than double the national increase.

However, the government is pressing ahead regardless. From October, the rollout of universal credit to disabled people and families is set to increase from five to 50 new areas a month. At the Conservative conference on 1 October, work and pensions secretary David Gauke suggested that there would be no rethink and people facing difficulties could claim emergency advance payments.

 

The hidden homelessness crisis: ‘what happens to those who are turned away?’

Official homelessness figures may not be capturing the extent of the crisis – particularly among single mothers and young people

Rear view of mid adult woman and baby daughter looking out of living room window
 Being in a precarious financial situation leaves single mothers vulnerable to rent arrears and eviction. 

There were 59,260 people accepted as statutorily homeless in 2016. Despite this being less than half of the 2003 peak of 135,000, it represents a 48% increase since 2009. But the impact has by no means fallen evenly.

The statutory definition of homelessness is just one of a number of categories of homelessness, taking into account only individuals or families who local authorities are obliged to assist. Figures released for 2016/17 by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that the largest proportion of people affected by statutory homelessness are single mothers – 47% of the overall figure, despite making up only 9.2% of households.

Research by single parent charity Gingerbread shows that a third of single parents have been affected adversely by welfare reform, while 39% are in low-paid work. Research officer Sumi Rabindrakumar says being in a precarious financial situation leaves single mothers vulnerable to rent arrears and eviction. “We’ve seen parents who’ve had to leave work because they can’t afford childcare costs,” she says.

But Rabindrakumar believes that the problem might be even worse than indicated by the official figures. Pressure on budgets is making councils increasingly reluctant to rehouse single mothers and authorities are applying ever-stricter criteria. “We’ve had a woman who was a victim of domestic violence and was told she’d made herself homeless,” she says.

Another group disproportionately vulnerable to homelessness is young people aged 16-24, who represent more than a fifth (22%) of the overall figure for statutory homelessness. Balbir Chatrik, director of policy at charity Centrepoint, believes that number should be treated with caution. Centrepoint recently used the Freedom of Information Act to find out the number of young people approaching councils about homelessness, and it was 150,000 – far higher than the recorded statistic.

“So what’s happening to those who are being turned away?” she asks.

In the past year, 71% of appeals against homelessness decisions have been successful, suggesting that some councils are turning away many people who are, in fact, eligible to be rehoused. The statistics also show that black and minority and ethnic (BAME) groups now account for 34% of all statutorily homeless people, despite making up only 11% of the UK population.

Research by Suzanne Fitzpatrick, professor of housing and social policy at Heriott-Watt University, suggests there is one factor above all that underlies most of these issues: poverty. In particular, whether a person has experienced poverty as a child is a key factor in future homelessness. “The idea that everyone is two pay cheques away from poverty is a complete myth,” she says. Fitzpatrick’s research clearly shows that young, single mothers are particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless. “Some groups are more vulnerable than others,” she says.

Of the top 10 worst areas for homelessness, only one is outside of the south-east of England: Birmingham, where the rate of homelessness has increased by 2,000% since 2009/10 – up from 157 cases then to 3,479 last year.

One charity trying to tackle this rise is the Sifa Fireside project. It hosts advisers from Shelter and also provides free legal advice through a partnership with the Central England Law Centre.

Michael Bates, manager of the Birmingham Community Law Centre, says £350m was cut from legal aid in 2013, almost completely eradicating free advice in areas such as welfare and housing. But the centre’s presence as part of the project means this help is still available – and is still vital, according to Lynn Evans, from Sifa Fireside. She points to a recent case where people were wrongly advised that they did not qualify for benefits.

“Since our intervention, the DWP has issued guidance to all jobcentres in Birmingham to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Evans says.

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Ministers told to cut wait for Universal Credit: amid evidence it is causing debt

Report raised ‘very serious concerns’ with government over delay before first payment

DWP brass plate
 The DWP’s advisory committee told it in 2015: ‘Universal credit was introduced on a platform of being a simple benefit and we consider that simplicity requires there to be no waiting days.’ 

Ministers are facing growing calls to slash the time welfare claimants are forced to wait before being entitled to the government’s flagship new benefit, having been warned some time ago by their own advisers that the delay is “beyond reasonable justification”.

David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, has been under pressure to slow down the roll-out of universal credit, which combines several benefits into one payment, after mounting evidence that it is pushing new claimants into debt and rent arrears. There are also calls for the government to end the seven-day waiting period after a new claim is made. The delay saves the government £250m a year.

Councils and housing associations have raised concerns about the waiting period because it means claimants are then paid a month in arrears, meaning they may wait up to six weeks for their first payment. There have been reports of claimants waiting even longer.

Food bank warns of Christmas hunger crisis due to changes to benefits rules

The government had been urged not to proceed with the seven-day wait by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises it on welfare issues, as long ago as 2015. Its report to ministers then raised “very serious concerns” about the measure. It said it should not go ahead, based on “persuasive and compelling evidence”.

“The committee considers that the impact of having to serve waiting days for a benefit that includes other costs, in particular housing, puts it beyond reasonable justification,” it said. “Universal credit was introduced on a platform of being a simple benefit and we consider that simplicity requires there to be no waiting days.”

There have also been huge cuts to the overall budget for the project: the Resolution Foundation thinktank has calculated that some families will lose out on up to £2,600 a year. David Finch, its senior policy analyst, said: “As universal credit is rolled out across the country, the problems that are already starting to emerge are likely to build. The government should urgently rethink the design and operation of universal credit before too many more families are affected.”

Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a member of the SSAC, said: “Delays in administering universal credit claims – combined with the fact that there is a seven-day waiting period before a claim can be made and that successful claims are usually paid a month in arrears – means that increasing numbers will have to cover their living costs for a considerable period before their award starts to be paid.

“This is for a benefit that includes support for housing costs. As SSAC has recommended, rather than a pause in roll-out, a more direct way to alleviate the concerns this causes would be to scrap the seven-day waiting period. This would cost the government around £250m a year.”

Chris Goulden of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, another member of the SSAC, said: “The government needs to look at its own evidence about the experiences of those who are claiming universal credit. People in the poorest fifth of households, 70% or so, have no savings at all and others only have a small amount to fall back on.”

Universal credit is a shambles because the poor are ignored, Far from being progressive, the measure will bring destitution of a huge scale

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Waiting days have been a longstanding part of the welfare system, and mostly apply to people who claim universal credit after leaving a job. Budgeting advice and benefit advances are available for anyone who needs extra help. A number of groups are exempt from waiting days, including care leavers, those with a serious illness, prison leavers, and victims of domestic violence.”

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