Debt charity StepChange is urging the government not to cut Universal Credit in a few weeks, as it warns how thousands of people could be made homeless without vital support
Sue is one of millions of people who will see their Universal Credit cut in just a few weeks – and she says she now lives in fear of being evicted.
The 61-year-old, who lives in Essex, has rent arrears of £2,000 but is struggling to find work.
She says she has recently managed to get some financial help from her council and is just about affording to pay her rent in full.
“But I’m still not really able to pay anything towards the arrears,” Sue said.
“Luckily the landlord seems fine with this at the moment, but obviously that could change at any time.
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“My Universal Credit goes down by £86 per month from October – I don’t know what I’m going to do then.
“I am trying my hardest to get a job. I just hope that I can stay in my home in the meantime.”
Debt charity StepChange has been highlighting Sue’s story as it warns how hundreds of thousands of people could lose their homes when help such as boosted Universal Credit payments and the furlough scheme stop.
Around half a million private tenants are now battling to stay on top of rent arrears worth £360million, the charity said.
Its research shows tenants will struggle to clear this debt over the next 12 months unless they’re given support.
A temporary uplift to Universal Credit payments, worth £20 per week, is being stopped from October 6.
Due to the way Universal Credit is calculated, it means for many families, September will be the last month they receive the enhanced payments.
Nadia, 52, who works for a travel company but has been furloughed twice, also has £2,000 of rent arrears and says her landlord has repeatedly threatened to evict her.
“My husband works in car manufacturing, he was made redundant three times last year,” she explained.
“He is suffering with long Covid and although he is at work now, the stress of not hitting his targets is really affecting his mental health.
“He is just about earning enough to pay the rent, but not enough to be able to contribute towards the arrears.
“I’m back at work, but still on furlough pay till end of September and I’m not sure what’s going on after that.”
StepChange has been calling on the government to provide an emergency financial support package to help renters worst affected during the pandemic.
Like other charities who are warning of families spiralling into debt, it has also urged ministers not to cut Universal Credit.
The government has so far refused to extend the financial lifeline.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the support was only designed to be temporary, while Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey this week said there are no plans to extend it.
The Mirror has spoken to other families who are going to be affected by the drop, including single mum Gemma who fears she’ll need to use her credit card to get to work.
And mum of twin daughters Rachel says she won’t be able to afford Christmas this year.
Phil Andrew, chief executive of StepChange, said: “For 18 months, renters have been at the sharp end of the pandemic.
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“Sadly these figures show a huge number of people worried about how they will keep up with their rent.
“Covid support schemes, while a lifeline for many, haven’t been able to help renters address their arrears and with cuts to Universal Credit and the end of furlough imminent, there is a real danger of thousands losing their homes.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Our £352 billion support package has helped renters throughout the pandemic and prevented a build-up of rent arrears.
“We also took unprecedented action to help keep people in their homes by extending notice periods and pausing evictions at the height of the pandemic.”