Recipients falling into rent arrears because of payment delays, forcing them to turn to food banks, Guardian investigation reveals
Thousands of benefit claimants are facing debt, rent arrears and eviction as a result of policy design flaws in universal credit, according to landlords and politicians, who are demanding an overhaul of the system.
They have warned that UC rules that require claimants to wait at least six weeks for a first benefit payment mean many are going without basic living essentials, forcing them to turn to food banks and loan sharks.
Ministers are being urged to slow down the national rollout and to increase support for vulnerable claimants who are struggling to cope with the demands of monthly payments and an increasingly online-only system.
The findings have emerged during an investigation by the Guardian, which has also revealed that:
Eight out of 10 social housing tenants moved on to UC are falling into rent arrears or increasing the level of pre-existing arrears.
Families unable to manage the regulation 42-day wait for a first payment are regularly referred to food banks by housing associations or local MPs.
Some claimants are waiting as long as 60 days for an initial payment because of processing delays on top of the formal wait.
Uncertainty about the system has contributed to a dramatic decline in the number of private landlords willing to take on benefit recipients, even if they are in work.