During a debate in Parliament today, Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin used her childhood experience of being on the verge of homelessness to raise the very real risk of eviction faced by some of her constituents as the devastating rollout of Universal Credit continues.
A landlord bullying a local female tenant, households claiming housing benefit doubling and the fact that 7,200 more private renters have been evicted since 2009 were among the issues Tracy raised in a debate about the effects of Universal Credit on the private rented sector.
The ending of shorthold tenancies is the number one reason for families presenting themselves to local authorities as homeless – and the pressure on chronically underfunded councils could not be more severe.
Speaking in Westminster, Tracy Brabin MP said: “As a young child, my father was out of work for quite a long period and we couldn’t pay the mortgage. My mum handed over the keys to the building society and for several hours we were physically homeless until the council found us a flat, and that experience has stayed with me all my life and I’ll always be grateful to the council for saving us.
“Because being homeless isn’t about physically on the street, it’s about not having a permanent roof over your head, something all children should be entitled to.
“So, whilst the Labour Party supports the idea of Universal Credit, sadly, as we have seen in our own constituencies, this government’s wilful determination to roll it out, glitches and all, means that the most vulnerable in the private rented sector are at risk of building up rent arrears to such a point that they are evicted and made homeless – something no child should have to experience.”
While people struggle to keep their heads above water, the Conservative Government have casually dismissed the repeated warnings.
The outgoing Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, said that new claimants are being “needlessly worried by scaremongering”. To dismiss the plight of those facing homelessness as scaremongering is an insult.
Locally, there are 869 Kirklees Council Tenants who claim Universal Credit, and a staggering 720 of those are in arrears.
The council will help these tenants to manage – but many private landlords will not extend the same courtesy.
And in some cases, landlords use aggressive tactics to remove the tenants from their properties, something that has been reported to Tracy by a constituent.
To make matters worse, the five week wait for Universal Credit means that many private landlords will not accept claimants at all.
Anyone who is facing problems as a result of the Universal Credit roll-out, in the private rented sector or otherwise, please contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org