Peter Hain has strongly criticised the Government’s plans to replace housing benefit with Universal Credit, which he has warned is likely to result in a big rise of rent arrears amongst low income tenants living in social housing in the Neath constituency.
The MP has expressed deep concern in response to the news that tenants in Torfaen taking part in a trial of the Government’s new benefits system have seen total rent arrears in the County Borough rise sevenfold from £20,000 to £140,000 in just seven months.
Mr Hain comments, “Continuing unemployment coupled with astronomical rising food and fuel prices means that many people on low incomes are struggling to manage on their budget.”
“Faced with crippling financial pressure from the Government’s brutal changes to the benefit system, and with the ‘Bedroom Tax’ due to take effect next month, a simple matter such as a broken washing machine could force many struggling parents throughout Neath to have to decide between sending their children to school in clean clothes or paying their rent.”
Under the Government’s welfare reforms, Universal Credit will be paid to the claimants themselves rather than directly to their local council or housing association, as was previously the case with housing benefit.
Mr Hain continues, “Rent arrears have sky-rocketed amongst the tenants taking part in the Government’s pilot scheme. When rolled out across the UK, this could see families in Neath running up huge amounts of debt and running the risk of being evicted.”
“Cameron’s cuts are already having a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in our communities, the very people for whom welfare systems were put in place to protect. For many already in financial hardship, the knock-on effects of Universal Credit will deliver a further crushing blow.”
“However, whilst families in Neath struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table, it is millionaires that Cameron and Osborne have decided to give a tax break. It really shows where their priorities lie.”