Calls for Universal Credit housing benefit to automatically go to landlords

Calls have been made for the housing element of Universal Credit to automatically go to landlords.

The current system sees claimants opt in for their benefits to go directly towards rent.

However, research by Scottish Labour suggests fewer than half of eligible households currently have it paid direct to their landlord.

The party has called for the housing element to be paid directly to landlords in all instances, with claimants having the option of opting out of that practice if they wish.

Labour Social Security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “The Tories’ shambolic Universal Credit means thousands of families across Scotland are being pushed into rent arrears through no fault of their own.

“The SNP’s Scottish Choices have helped fewer than half of tenants eligible. Using new social security powers to ensure housing benefit is automatically paid direct to landlords to protect the roof over people’s heads is a no-brainer.

“Across the country thousands are suffering the misery of Universal Credit, and are still having to juggle paying the rent heating their home or eating.

“We need to do more to prevent arrears building up, risking low-income families becoming homeless.”

Scottish Labour says the number of households in Scotland that receive the housing element of Universal credit is 75,138, with 43,266 who not signed up to direct payment.

That leaves just 31,872 who have decided to use the automatic system.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We think it is important that individuals have the choice about whether or not to have the housing cost element of their Universal Credit award paid to their landlord, just as they have choice if they are paid monthly or twice monthly.

“In line with our social security principles of respect, dignity and fairness, we support people to make an informed choice based on their own needs and what works best for them.”