The Greater Manchester Law Centre, Disabled People Against the Cuts and Acorn tenants’ union have jointly issued a campaign demand: no one should face eviction as a result of delays to Universal Credit payments.
Universal Credit is a new system that will merge many types of benefits into one single payment. It has faced harsh and high-profile criticism, particularly for its effect on housing rights, evictions and homelessness. After its rollout in Manchester, it was reported that more than 80% of claimants in some housing associations falling behind with rent because of delays in receiving their payments. Studies in London found that 36% of those moving on to Universal Credit failed to pay rent at all in their first week, and 70% of council tenants were in arrears by February 2018.
Acorn tenants’ union launched in Manchester in January this year. They operate by organising communities to improve renters’ conditions and to tackle poverty. In March 2018, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham committed to join Acorn’s campaign against Universal Credit-based evictions and stated that “people have a right to safe, decent and affordable homes”.
The Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) provide free legal service and campaigns for free access to justice. GMLC declared their refusal to be complicit in the roll-out in October 2017, saying “if Universal Credit is so convoluted and ineffective that voluntary sector organisations are relied upon, then it should not be implemented at all”. Their statement was subsequently read out in Parliament by Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton.
Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) campaigns for justice and human rights for all disabled people. DPAC support the call for no evictions, whilst emphasising that payment delays are only one of many fundamental issues. For example, Rick Burgess from Manchester DPAC states: “Universal Credit particularly impoverishes disabled people, women and carers. Anyone who is not comfortable with a digital-by-default system is excluded, thus it is inaccessible and discriminatory”. Manchester DPAC also express that, practical issues aside, “the purpose of the Universal Credit scheme is to end social security in the UK and replace it with a system of state control of people in poverty, a sort of shadow penal system of sanctions and medical abuse, that would make George Orwell spin in his grave”.
On Wednesday 18th April at 1pm, activists from DPAC will be assembling on St Peter’s Square in Manchester as part of a national day of action against Universal Credit. Acorn and GMLC welcome the action as part of a campaign against Universal Credit’s wider issues, as well as the immediate demand to stop evictions caused by delayed payment.
Unite Community Manchester have declared their support for this demand. Unite Community members include those outside the workplace, such as disenfranchised youth, students, the unemployed, carers, volunteers and the elderly.
The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) have also issued a message of support: “GMCDP stands in support with MDPAC, GMLC and Acorn in demanding that there are no evictions for Universal Credit claimants.
“Many of our members have been adversely affected by delays, benefit reductions and the stress relating to Universal credit processes, resulting in them being threatened with eviction and being forced on to the poverty line.
“The numbers of disabled people threatened with homelessness has increased year on year due to the cruel bedroom tax and now Universal Credit. We say enough is enough.
“We stand in solidarity with other organisations who are rightly campaigning to protect disabled people from being evicted but we also want to see a change in the way landlords and local authorities treat disabled people on universal credit”.
GMCDP was established in 1985 and is an organisation run by and controlled by disabled people to campaign for full rights and inclusion in society.