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.
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
- preparations for, and initial experiences of, Universal
- 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
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
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
The survey also identifies a number of procedural issues that
are compounding the situation. The most common problems reported by
- 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
- 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.