88% of Wrexham council tenants transferred to Universal Credit to date are in rent arrears. Those were the worrying figures given to councillors recently at Wrexham's Housing and Environment Scrutiny Committee.
Plaid Cymru's Carrie Harper who sits on the committee and represents the Queensway ward in Caia Park said: "The figures we have to date reflect the relatively small number of claimants transferred but we expect that number to rise sharply this month following the accelerated roll out of the scheme locally. Unfortunately, looking at figures from England where there has already been full roll out, having this level of council tenants in arrears following the transfer is the norm. There is also concern about the impact on private tenants as well, who won't have access to as much help and advice."
"We estimate that approximately 7000 households across Wrexham will ultimately be affected by this. The transfer of housing benefit claimants to Universal Credit is a particular concern due to the excessive payment delays people are experiencing. People are often waiting 6 weeks or more for their claims to be processed, meaning that rent arrears increase significantly over that period, leaving many without access to any money at all. In other areas where roll out is accelerating, charities are warning about increases in food bank usage and a spike in loan sharks targeting communities. I fear we will be facing similar issues here as the Tories seem determined to plough on with this flawed scheme, despite warnings from all quarters about the detrimental impact it's having. How they can ignore the misery they're inflicting across the UK with this callous approach to welfare reform is beyond me".
"The indifferent attitude of this spiteful Tory Government to the suffering of others has unfortunately become a familiar theme. We see interview after interview of detached robotic spin from them on welfare reform, only surpassed by the vulgar displays of back patting in the House of Commons from the likes of Ian Duncan Smith who ushered this scheme in, as he smugly claims it will be a 'great driver for change'. Rather than driving change, Universal Credit is driving people into poverty."
If you are affected by the roll out of Universal Credit and would like further advice, you can contact the Universal Credit helpline directly but please be aware calls are still charged at 55p per minute from a mobile and this will remain the case for several weeks.
Alternatively please get in touch with Contact Wrexham based on Lord Street on 01978 29200. If you're a council tenant you can also get advice from your local estate office, please see contact numbers below:
Broughton Estate office - 01978 722020
Caia Estate office - 01978 317040
Gwersyllt Estate office - 01978 722100
Plas Madoc Estate office - 01978 813000
Rhos Estate office - 01978 832500
Wrexham Central Estate Office - 01978 292062