THE TOWN'S housing association is bracing itself for a spike in late rent payments when Universal Credit (UC) is introduced.

Since 2013 the new benefit, which combines six income-related payments into one monthly sum, has been slowly rolled out across the country.

In February 2018 Bracknell residents who are working age, on low income or out of work, not in full time education or work and have less than £16,000 in savings can start claiming UC.

Currently 24 per cent of Bracknell Forest Homes (BFH) tenants, which owns the town's social housing stock, are in rent arrears.

Of the 60 customers who have received UC already in an early Bracknell rollout, 65 per cent have made late payments.

If the trend continues in February when around 1,600 BFH tenants are switched to the new benefit, 1,040 UC recipients living in social housing could fail to make rent.

A BFH spokesperson said: "There is up to a seven week waiting period for some people to receive their Universal Credit payment. All applications will need to be made online and there will be a shift towards self-management and budgeting, all of which we expect will have an impact on rent payments and cause arrears.

"Claimants can ask the Department for Work and Pensions when they visit their Job Coach at a Job Centre for an advance payment.

"It’s really important that if people move on to Universal Credit and are unable to budget for the first seven weeks, they ask for the advance payment to help them cover costs.

"We have two money advisors who can help customers understand the benefits they may be eligible for and how to make benefit claims to maximise their income. In 2016/17, we helped customers access £223,000 in benefits."

Some local authorities and housing associations have already struggled with the introduction of the new system.

Halton Housing Trust, a fifth of whose households are on the full digital UC, has reported a 100 per cent year-on-year increase in tenants against whom eviction proceedings have started.

Croydon council said it would spend £3m this year helping thousands of tenants avoid eviction.

For information and advice about UC go to