MORE than two thirds of people on universal credit living in council homes in Brighton and Hove could not pay their rent in the first three months of the year.

A total of 68 per cent of the 498 households on universal benefit had average rent arrears of £473 between January and March.

It was the highest average amount of missed rent for any tenant group, including those experiencing the benefit cap and bedroom tax.

The combined total of arrears topped £150,000, although 93 per cent of this was collected by the council.

Figures were worse for people in temporary accommodation.

The council team responsible for managing and collecting rents from people in temporary accommodation reported in April that arrears for tenants on universal credit stood at £434,000.

At this time the council said that it was too early to have figures for any enforcement.

However, it has set up payment plans for people in arrears.

As of Thursday May 10, there were 5,564 households receiving universal credit in Brighton and Hove.

Of these, 1,266 used to receive housing benefit which is one of the benefits now replaced by universal credit .

The council expects around 20,000 households in the city will eventually move to the new benefit.

But introducing the new combined benefit for people living in Brighton and Hove is putting pressure on council finances and services.

The report going before councillors today outlines the financial pressure faced by the council.

To help people deal with the new benefit, the council has held 93 personal budgeting sessions and 65 assisted digital sessions in the first three months of the year.

The report says: “Overall it is clear that the change to universal credit is creating resource pressures for council services.

“It is arguable that this is inevitable during any process of change of this scale.

“However, the rules and delivery structures around universal credit (which vary significantly from the legacy benefits system) may mean these pressures are in fact not transitional but ongoing.”

A presentation about the impact of universal credit from the perspectives of  the community and voluntary sectors, including Moneywork and the Hangleton and Knoll Project, will start the meeting.

Universal Credit is a payment to help with living costs and replaces six other credits.

People may be able to get it if they are on a low income or out of work.

The introduction has caused controversy nationwide.

Case studies in Brighton and Hove

Case one

A woman with two young children under school age, one with special needs, had her claim refused as she was considered to have voluntarily given up her job.

She had worked full-time for her husband and left him due to domestic violence.

The Family Information Service referred her to a foodbank, signed her up to the Providing Access to Childcare and Employment project and managed to get back to work.

Case two

A woman referred to the FIS by the Housing Options Team was moved to emergency accommodation from outside Brighton and Hove due to domestic violence.

This change meant she needed to claim universal credit.

She had been living in UK initially as a student and then with her partner for eight years.

She lost “worker status” when the relationship broke down and was told she needed to work a minimum of 25 hours a week.

Before her relationship broke down she only needed to work 16 hours a week to get working tax credits.

She was not entitled to free childcare for her two-year-old child.

The woman was also referred to a foodbank and she was also put in touch with Voices in Exile.