Universal Credit, Welfare Reform and its impact

Rebecca White - Your Own Place CIC

I’m not a private landlord and have no plans to become one.  So why does making sure young people pay the rent matter to me?

 

Firstly because I’ve worked with young people since my early 20s.  I worked with young homeless people in south London, streets gangs, young people in prison and everything in between. 

Many of the young adults I worked with either didn't know they had to pay rent or that mum and dad had been paying it for years.   This is because Housing Benefit had been paid straight to the landlord.

For this reason, I’m a fan of Universal Credit and some of the welfare reforms.  I agree that something is wrong if people don't even know they’re paying rent and that it’s their responsibility.  However, I’m also worried that those same people are going to get a bit of a shock when all that money comes to them and not to the landlord.

Let me tell you about Sarah (not her real name).  Sarah has been unlucky.  Sarah lost both her parents at a very young age and grew up in local authority care.  She moved literally dozens of times before being told at 18 that she was on her own.  I met Sarah at 19, living with her boyfriend in their first place together.  He works and Sarah works sporadically.  Sarah struggles to hold a job down because of her mental health and chronic lack of self-esteem.  We’re now working with Sarah, not just to sort out her bills, but to help her have the self-worth to apply for jobs, cope with the rejection and keep going. 

The best moment of working with Sarah was when we saw her suddenly grasp how borrowing and APR works.  She was already in 1000s of pounds of debt and no-one had ever explained it to her.  She was thrilled that she could now go and sort out her debts and explain it to her boyfriend too.  Sarah is just the kind of person we love working with at Your Own Place adn who we know will make a great employee, as long as she as some support.  Sarah is also just the kind of person that will struggle with Universal Credit.  With all the creditors knocking at her door, she will have to decide between paying the landlord and other bills.  This is why we’re worried about Universal Credit and want to work with more people like Sarah to help them make the right decisions. 

And the second reason making sure that young people pay the rent matters to me?  Because I may be an advocate for young people who've not had it easy, but I’m also a tax-payer.  I want our communities to be free of crime, free of unemployment, free of homelessness, full of people reaching their potential and in good health.  And I want Sarah to get a job, keep a job and keep her home.

 

To find out more about what we do contact Rebecca on 07530 028446 or email rebecca@yourownplace.org.uk.

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