Sharon McDougall - 17th September 2021 - 2 minutes to read
The scale of the rent debt crisis in the UK is likely to worsen once the government removes the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments.
That’s according to the debt help charity StepChange, which is convinced that many thousands more tenants across the country will soon find themselves struggling further to pay their rent because of the uplift cut.
In fact, StepChange’s latest research suggests that hundreds of thousands more people will be face long-term housing insecurity and problem debt heading into the winter.
Estimates are that around £360 million worth of rental debt was accrued during the pandemic and, despite the economy having been largely reopened, the scale of those arrears is yet to be reduced.
Research carried out on behalf of StepChange suggests that more than half a million people who claim Universal Credit feel that the removal of the £20 uplift will push them into rent arrears within the next 12 months.
The fear is that a reduction to Universal Credit payments will make debt problems worse for a huge number of households and could lead to increases in rent arrears but also, ultimately, evictions and homelessness.
StepChange’s figures indicate that around a quarter (24 per cent) of Universal Credit claimants are optimistic about finding more work in the coming year.
However, for claimants with entrenched debts, it could be that even taking on more work and earning more money might not be enough to resolve their financial issues.
Charities and campaigners are urging the government to provide targeted support that helps renters avoid seeing their debt problems worsen and gives them a better chance of avoiding serious financial difficulties.
“For 18 months, renters have been at the sharp end of the pandemic,” said Phil Andrew, chief executive of StepChange.
“While the end of restrictions will allow some get back to their feet, thousands are still facing a mountain of rent debt they are unable to address alone.
“StepChange is calling for a dedicated financial support to help ensure renters can safely wind down Covid rent debts and keep their homes.”
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