North Lanarkshire Council establishes Universal Credit Assistance Fund

North Lanarkshire Council has established a Universal Credit Assistance Fund to help tenants who find themselves falling into rent arrears due to built-in waiting times for Universal Credit payments to be processed and paid.

(from left) Councillor Heather Brannan-McVey, convener of housing and regeneration, joins housing staff Laura Quinn and Audrey Johnstone to highlight the assistance fund

The council is providing access to a fund in place for tenants struggling with the impact of making a Universal Credit claim or migrating to the benefit.

Many tenants have moved to Universal Credit from housing benefit, which was paid directly into their rent account but this process has changed and is resulting in some people going into arrears.

Rent arrears have risen sharply for tenants moving to Universal Credit, and for 2018/19 were recorded at over £3 million.

Councillor Heather Brannan-McVey, convener of housing and regeneration, said: “We’re encouraging tenants who have fallen behind with their rent payments not to ignore their financial plight and to get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

“Our fund has already assisted a number of tenants and families on low incomes that are facing challenges presented by changes to the benefit system. Some tenants are finding themselves in arrears for the first time due to the built-in delay in receiving their first payment and we understand that this causes real worry and stress and that’s one of the reasons we’ve set up this fund.”

Tenants eligible to receive assistance must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be new Universal Credit Claimants,
  • Their arrears are caused by the five-week waiting period for receipt of their first Universal
    Credit payment,
  • Ability to repay the fund via an affordable arrangement, and
  • No existing former arrears for tenant/joint tenant.

Stephen Llewellyn, head of housing solutions, added: “Tenants must pay their rent and help is in place to support those experiencing short-term difficulties in making their payment obligations.

“We are able to recover the money once our tenant has received their payment and we hope this offers a solution to alleviate the stress and uncertainty they are experiencing when claiming Universal Credit.”

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