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Charity's fear over housing costs as benefits set to merge
SOME of the region’s poorest households will face a financial “knife edge” as a result of the introduction of the Government’s Universal Credit benefit this autumn, the charity Shelter claims.
It said people living in rented properties who lose their jobs would see support from the state dramatically cut.
Meanwhile, those owning their own homes could be made to wait up to 39 weeks for help with paying their mortgage should they also find themselves out of work.
The charity said its analysis showed families claiming benefit and paying rent on a typical three bedroomed home would need to find £75 or more each month to keep up with housing costs.
Universal Credit has already been trialled in some parts of the country and is intended to replace income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance payments, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit with a single merged monthly payment.
The Government believes it will help the unemployed or those on a low income to be better off in work, start a new job or work more hours.
Shelter said it had commissioned a survey by pollsters YouGov which revealed that four out of ten workers in the region would be unable to pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job.
It identified the city of Sunderland as a “hot spot” where the changes would bite the hardest.
Chief executive Campbell Robb said: “This research highlights the frightening reality that as support continues to be cut, losing your job is increasingly likely to mean losing your home.
“Just one thing, like an illness or redundancy, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral that puts their home at risk.
“It’s important that we have a welfare system that’s fair, but the Government is cutting back the safety net so much that families are no longer protected from losing their home.”
The introduction of the Universal Credit regime has faced allegations of mismanagement and delay and the National Audit Office recently found that £34m spent on computer systems and services for the project had been written off because it offered no value for taxpayers.
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