What England needs is more affordable houses, not universal credit | Peter Hetherington
The botched rollout of universal credit has led to £1.3m in council rental arrears in Newcastle, the city where I, Daniel Blake was set. Ministers are making the housing crisis worse
Across the road from where Daniel Blake pleaded for fairness with jobcentre staff in Ken Loach’s 2016 film, a real human drama is unfolding in Newcastle upon Tyne’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Since becoming the largest city to pilot universal credit last March, rent arrears with Newcastle council’s housing provider have gone through the roof. At the last count, they stood at £1.3m. Some tenants have run out of cash, leaving the bureau to pick up the pieces.
Think about that: at least 2,400 people in rental arrears in a medium-sized city, with a growing economy, thriving digital sector, two universities and a rich cultural offer. It could be anywhere in England. Newcastle’s experience with universal credit and the consequent impact on social housing – and the shrinkage it is inflicting on the private rented sector – should be a warning to the rest of the country as it is rolled out.
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