A specialist advice provider is warning Ballymoney residents about the impact the controversial Universal Credit could have on their housing situation.
The new credit will be introduced in the town on November 15. It will replace Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Income based Job Seekers Allowance and income related Employment and Support Allowance.
Anyone of working age who gets these benefits will be affected, according to the charity Housing Rights, which works to improve lives by tackling homelessness and housing problems.
Recent figures show that half of all council tenants across 105 English local authorities who receive the housing element of universal credit are at least a month behind on their rent, with 30% two months behind.
Ursula Toner, Advice manager with Housing Rights, said: “From 15 November Ballymoney residents claiming any of the above benefits for the first time will have to make a new online application for Universal Credit. They could then face a wait of five to six and a half weeks before they get their first payment.
“There could also be significant challenges for households who move from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit, due to a change in circumstances. This could result in people getting behind with their housing payments, potentially putting their homes at risk.”
Ballymoney will be the second in Northern Ireland to have Universal Credit introduced. It will be rolled out gradually across the rest of the province.
Ms Toner continued: “Universal Credit and how it is processed is very different from Housing Benefit. I would urge anyone who is worried about how Universal Credit might affect their housing situation to get in touch. Housing Rights runs a free housing helpline just call 90 245640 and pick option 3 to chat to an adviser.”
The organisation, which last year provided advice and assistance on over 43,000 housing issues, also has online information about Universal Credit at www.housingadviceni.org