Universal credit report links benefit to homelessness

The Scottish Government has published a report that highlights what it believes are correlations between homelessness and the roll out of Universal Credit (UC). The analysis is important because in January 2020 there were around 240,000 people claiming UC in Scotland, which had risen to 480,000 by January this year according to the data contained in the report.

If the Benefit is contributing to an increased risk of homelessness then the large rise in claimants could track an increase in homelessness in the future, particularly once emergency Covid-19 support currently in place comes to an end or is withdrawn. For example, the current £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift, originally due to finish in April but extended until the end of September in the recent UK Budget.

The report outlines that homelessness rates in Scotland have slightly increased since 2015, coinciding with the rollout of Universal Credit since 2013. Mental health has grown as a reason for homelessness over that period, while homeless households and households affected by the five-week wait tend to be similar in composition. The report also identifies what it frames as a statistically significant correlation between UC sanctions and homelessness across local authorities in Scotland.

The report concludes: “Amid broader debates on the future of UC, it is therefore crucial that the impacts on homelessness are recognised and addressed.”