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Policy mistake

January 07 2018
Universal Credit is causing problems for homeless people

Changes to government policy and the six-week wait experienced by new claimants to Universal Credit are exacerbating the difficulties faced by homeless people and benefit claimants trying to enter the private rental sector.

While the Homeless Reduction Act is expected to bring down the cost of temporary accommodation, it is unlikely to work in London, warn experts.

In his November budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond pledged £25 million to tackle homelessness with a view to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027.

But the move may decrease homeless people's access to private accommodation. In a survey conducted by Crisis in 2016, private landlords were generally reluctant to rent to people in receipt of Housing Benefit (Universal Credit has been rolled out in 2013–17), and even more reluctant to rent to people they know to be homeless. Crisis suggests measures to motivate landlords to let to homeless people and those receiving benefits, including rent paid directly from local housing allowance funds to the landlord.

Already, the Mayor of Lewisham and executive member for Housing and London Councils, Sir Steve Bullock, has said the demands made on councils by the Homeless Reduction Act will be so high, London could account for most of the available government funding.