Fife fights poverty with new help for council tenants
A £1 million fund is to be made available to help Fife Council tenants who are struggling to cope with the effects of Universal Credit (UC).
As part of the council’s commitment to a fairer Fife, convener of the community and housing services committee, Cllr Judy Hamilton, said the decision will help those hardest hit by welfare benefit changes and prevent people getting further into debt.
Cllr Hamilton said: “New claimants of Universal Credit have a built-in waiting time of at least five weeks after their claim is approved before they receive any payment. We are actively campaigning about this and I have written to the DWP and the Secretary of State to express our concern on behalf of our tenants.
“People can’t be expected to live properly and pay all their bills during this time. Debt can start to pile up and we know people are struggling. This is also the time when people can fall into rent arrears - and that’s where we can take positive action and help.”
From June 1, the council will credit tenants who have new UC claims with two weeks rent to help them through the time until they receive their first UC payment.
And if a tenant signs up to “rent direct to landlord”, and makes a two week rent payment, Fife Council will credit an additional two weeks rent payment to the tenant’s rent account.
Council tenants who are existing UC claimants and experiencing hardship may also receive assistance from the fund. Council officers will liaise with tenants in debt to identify any financial issues that they have, and offer support where appropriate.
Cllr Hamilton added: “We believe that this will help our tenants while not completely mitigating the effects of UC.
“The fact that we are having to take these measures is proof that changes to the social security system are not working and they are impacting unfairly on the most vulnerable in our communities. We can’t sit back and allow that to happen which is why I’ve announced these changes. A place to call home is a basic human right - and we will continue to do everything in our power to make sure all Fifers have safe, warm, affordable housing.”