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The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.

 

Download it here.

ARCH/NFA Welfare Reform survey results 17/12/2015

ARCH and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) have conducted a further survey of stock retained councils to assess the impact of welfare reforms on council landlords and their tenants. This builds on a similar survey conducted previously among ARCH and NFA members.

 

View the full analysis of the survey results.

 

This latest ARCH/NFA survey was carried out during October and November 2015 and covered a number of topics including:

 

  • impact on rent arrears
  • impact of the spare room subsidy, (sometimes referred to as the 'bedroom tax')
  • preparations for, and initial experiences of, Universal Credit
  • the expected impact of forthcoming further welfare cuts - specifically the lower overall benefit cap and the removal of help with housing costs from many 18 - 21 year olds.

 

A total of 36 stock retained councils and almos responded to the survey - responsible between them for managing a total of 386,000 homes.

 

The survey results showed that in these organisations:

 

  • 31% of tenants were in rent arrears at the end of March 2015. This represents a small increase over the figure at March 2014 but remains lower than the peak of over 40% in September 2013
  • 10% of tenants were affected by the spare room subsidy at March 2015, down by just over 2% from the figure at March 2014. However 51% of tenants required to pay the subsidy were in rent arrears and 24% were in receipt of Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
  • at the time of the survey some 2,000 households across the 36 organisations had transferred to, or were in receipt of, Universal Credit and of those in receipt of it:
    • 89% were in rent arrears; and
    • 34% were subject to an Alternative Payment Arrangement. 

 

View the full analysis of the survey results.

 

While under one third of tenants have some rent arrears, over half of the tenants liable to pay the spare room subsidy are in arrears. The survey results also show that since its roll out across England from April 2014, 89% of Universal Credit claimants have accumulated rent arrears, with 34% subject to an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). Both the NFA and ARCH are extremely concerned about the proportion of tenants who have moved across to the new Universal Credit and the consequent hardship this is undoubtedly causing for Universal Credit claimants.

 

The research also reveals that the current six week assessment period for Universal Credit claims, combined with the initial seven day waiting period, is having serious consequences on tenants' ability to maintain rent payments.

 

The NFA and ARCH would urge the government to:

 

  • abandon the current seven day waiting period for Universal Credit entitlement, and
  • speed up the assessment process to three weeks, bringing the processing period closer to the two weeks usually achieved for Housing Benefit. 

 

The survey also identifies a number of procedural issues that are compounding the situation. The most common problems reported by landlords were:

 

  • not receiving timely notification of tenants going on to Universal Credit (described as 'frequently' or 'sometimes' a problem by 96% of respondents),
  • claimants experiencing hardship while waiting for their first payment (95%),
  • payments of Universal Credit being delayed (82%)
  • the housing element of Universal Credit being calculated incorrectly or omitted entirely (82%).

 

This has led the NFA and ARCH to echo earlier calls for 'direct payment' to landlords to be made available as a choice for all tenants, as called for by the ARCH Tenant Group, and set out in the joint ARCH/NFA manifesto.   

 

The findings of our survey will be of concern for stock retained councils and their tenants, and in his Ministerial Foreword to the Universal Credit Landlords Support Pack, Lord Freud acknowledges the important role social landlords have in supporting tenants in receipt of Universal Credit.

 

It is essential that stock retained councils work together with the government to explore all available solutions to this problem and reduce the impact on tenants and resulting hardship.

 

ARCH and the NFA will be following up the findings of the Welfare Reform Survey with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and have already written to DWP Officials requesting a meeting to discuss the results of the survey. 

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