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LABOUR became the first major political party to pledge support for Living Rent’s campaign against evictions caused by universal credit tonight.
British party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Scottish counterpart Richard Leonard joined the Scottish tenants’ union in calling on housing associations to ensure no tenant faces eviction due to arrears caused by the benefit.
Mr Leonard said the campaign had Labour’s “unwavering support.”
“The fact that people suffering under the cruel policy of universal credit are being forced into debt and threatened with eviction is absolutely shocking,” he said.
“In power, Labour will immediately scrap this inhumane policy that has seen poverty and rent arrears soar across local authorities.
“The Living Rent campaign has Labour’s unwavering support on this matter and we call on Nicola Sturgeon to do all she can to help those tenants threatened with eviction.
“When elected, Labour will tackle the substandard state of housing in this country and eradicate the poverty that goes hand in hand with it.
“We will implement a Mary Barbour law to regulate our overpriced private renting sector and we will commit to build 12,000 social homes a year in Scotland.
“Labour will stand up for tenants in the face of profit-hungry private landlords because Labour is on the side of the many, not the few.”
Living Rent argues that the controversial benefit scheme disproportionately affects tenants and leads to arrears resulting in eviction and destitution.
Research from four federations of housing associations across the UK revealed that 73 per cent of tenants in receipt of universal credit are in debt.
And a survey by the Unite union found 42 per cent of universal credit claimants had used foodbanks due to deprivation caused by the benefit and 70 per cent had skipped meals.
Living Rent organiser David Hanson told the Star the group was “overwhelmed that, in just a few short weeks since our campaign began, it has already been recognised by the leader of the Labour Party.”
He said: “The scourge of universal credit and its accompanying miseries of debt, eviction and destitution is a UK-wide problem, one that in Glasgow we are fighting against in the heart of our communities.
“While we don’t know if or when universal credit will be scrapped, it is clear now that if housing associations plan to tackle its worst effects, they must commit to a policy of no universal credit evictions.”
The Labour Party has already pledged to scrap universal credit as part of an overhaul of Britain’s benefit system.
Living Rent outreach liaison officer Enas Magzoub said: “It’s great to see the Labour Party backing us in this. It really goes to show that, just because there’s an election on, we can’t put the grassroots campaigns on the back burner.
“We still need to work for immediate change now, not just in four weeks’ time.
“Labour’s support of Living Rent demonstrates their commitment to ordinary, struggling people, instead of rogue landlords and greedy letting agents.
“Universal credit has been proven to be a complete disaster.
“We face the very real prospect that people will be forced from their homes due to rent arrears caused by a poorly thought-out system.
“These people cannot afford to wait for weeks while their payments come in.”
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