Almost 90 per cent of council tenants in receipt of the controversial Universal Credit (UC) benefit are in rent arrears totalling £525,000.
South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants are struggling to pay for housing.
The local authority said it was doing everything possible to assist people to repay the debt and avoid losing their home, as Gerard Killen MP called on the government to halt the full roll out of the benefit.
Currently offered to a limited number of people, UC replaces six of the main means tested benefits including housing benefit and sees claimants receive all of their benefits in one single payment monthly in arrears.
It means tenants are, for the first time, responsible for paying their rent as opposed to their housing benefit being paid direct to their landlord.
But South Lanarkshire Council says the new system has been dogged with problems.
In a report put before councillors at last week’s housing and technical resources committee it states UC has been dogged with problems.
It states: “These include encountering significant delays in receiving payment, the wrong or no payment being made to housing costs and an inability to contact the UC processing centre to resolve issues on behalf of customers.”
The council warned the level of debt will get much worse when UC is rolled out to full service across the county on October 4. It has set aside £1.187million to cover the debt it estimates will be accrued by UC tenants in this financial year alone.
But Gerard Killen, MP for Rutherglen and Cambuslang, has called on the government to scrap plans for the roll out altogether.
Image: Gerard Killen, MP
He said: “If the system is putting more people into poverty or debt, which clearly it is, then it should not continue in that form.
“A UK Labour Government would examine ways to reform and redesign Universal Credit which would include ending the six weeks delays in payments.
“This report shows the fears that the disastrous accelerated roll out of Universal Credit would lead to increasing rent arrears and force people into using food banks to feed themselves and their family are coming true. This is unacceptable in this day and age.”
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The biggest problem people face is the six-week delay in receiving payments, which makes it very difficult for people who are already struggling in poverty and can lead to them falling into rent arrears, debt and having to rely on food banks.
“A major concern for us is that people may never recover from the delay and, ultimately, may then face the prospect of losing their home.
“We think the rollout of UC to any new areas should be halted so that the flaws can be fixed before they start to adversely affect any other vulnerable people.”
A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said: “The council works with tenants to prevent arrears escalating and would only pursue an eviction action as a last resort after all other efforts to resolve the situation have been exhausted.”