Universal Credit having ‘major impact’ on people needing housing advice in Hartlepool

The majority of people seeking housing support in Hartlepool are facing a ‘major impact’ from Universal Credit, council bosses said.

Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 2:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 2:07 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre

It came as Hartlepool Borough Council’s regeneration services committee discussed the number of people using its housing advice service and the problems they face.

This followed the introduction of The Homelessness Reduction Act 2018 in April last year placing new duties on local authorities to help prevent the homelessness of all families and single people, regardless of priority need.

Since then the council has worked on 661 requests to provide advice and assistance to help resolve housing problems.

Lynda Igoe, principal housing advice officer, said they see people with increasingly complex needs, many of whom are on Universal Credit.

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She said: “What we have seen is that the people coming into us have increasingly complex needs.

“Lots of the people that we see have got either a significant offending history or addiction problems or, increasingly, mental health problems, it’s not uncommon for people to have all three.

“There’s lots and lots of different problems that a house isn’t going to solve.

“Universal Credit claimants definitely make up a big proportion of the people that we see. We very rarely see people who have to request our intervention who are working.

“The majority of claimants are on Universal Credit in Hartlepool, so Universal Credit makes a big impact, especially if they are being sanctioned or if they are finding it difficult to navigate round.

“Universal Credit has made a major impact.”

Council bosses said since the new act was brought in the number of customers seeking advice has remained consistent.

However they noted there has been an increase in the length of time to speak to customers, with initial interviews generally lasting between 90 minutes and two hours.

They also added the council has a number of extra policies in place to help those in particular need due to the cold weather, and they will go help any rough sleepers reported to them.

She said: “We will keep going out anytime anyone reports anyone.

“In the severe weather, and there seems to be more coming up, we have a severe weather protocol.

“Anyone, regardless of whether they have priority need or not, if the weather is going to be below freezing for three consecutive nights the council has a duty to get them in off the streets.

“So we do offer temporary emergency accommodation for those people regardless of their background or the circumstances.

“We try and asses where the safest place is for them to go, but no-one should be out on the streets.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service