The Scottish Government has been granted devolved powers by Westminster to introduce a degree of flexibility when it comes to the newly introduced Universal Credit which consolidates 6 different benefits including tax credits, income based job-seekers allowance and income-related employment and support allowance into a single payment.
These new powers will afford universal credit claimants to choose whether they get their benefit monthly or fortnightly in areas where a digital planning system has been set up. These proposals have been made in response to views gathered from the public as receiving universal credit fortnightly will make budgeting easier for those on a tight income, according to Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman.
Scottish tenants will also have the choice of having the housing element of their universal credit paid directly to their landlord, a change welcomed by John Blackwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords who stated “This should help protect tenancies and minimise rent arrears which will benefit both the tenant and the landlord. It is only fair that private sector tenants have the same option to choose direct payments as tenants in the social sector."
These changes do not come without criticism: Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative MSP welcomes the changes proposed but highlights that the Scottish Government will only be using a small portion of the powers granted to it by the UK Government and the transition of some benefits will take up to 3 years to complete. She stated “They've asked for a hold-off for three years to take all these powers on board. It's alright complaining and not governing, but we need to see them actually governing and using the powers they were given."
DASH has spoken with several of its accredited landlords all of which would welcome more flexibility around the payment of Universal Credit, particularly where this would result in the direct payment of housing related benefit to the landlord, hugely reducing the likelihood of tenants accumulating rent arrears.