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NFA and ARCH call on Government to pause roll out of UC as problems remain unresolved 03/08/2017

In a joint report published on 25 July, ARCH and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) call on Government to halt to the roll out of Universal Credit (UC) and remove the seven day wait period for new claims. 


Together ARCH and the NFA, who represent over a million council homes, voice strong concerns at Government's plans to accelerate the roll out UC despite evidence of the considerable hardship it is causing to tenants and communities.


In our report 'Pause for Thought - Measuring the impact of welfare reform on tenants and landlords 2017 survey results' we track the impact of welfare reforms on landlords and tenants.


This report sets out the results of our most recent welfare reform survey which tracks councils' and arm's length management organisations' (ALMOs) performance on rent arrears and the impact of welfare reforms, including the rollout of UC. The survey reports figures as at the 31st March 2017. In total, 42 members from ARCH and the NFA responded to the survey, responsible for managing a total of 563,985 homes.


Our latest report shows clearly that the problems associated with the UC rollout identified in previous research remain unresolved and, almost four years on from the initial introduction of UC in October 2013, delays in the UC assessment process, poor communications between DWP and landlords, and the seven day wait period continue to cause significant problems to both landlords and their tenants.  Other issues such as digital access also present problems for 50-65yr old claimants.


Key findings of this latest survey are:


  • Tenant rent arrears among UC claimants remain stubbornly high at73%, a total cost of£6.68million.
  • Families with no previous history of rent arrears are being driven into debt, with40%of households accumulating rent arrears as a consequence of claiming UC.
  • Households already struggling with rent payments are being driven deeper into debt as the average arrears for UC claimants has increased from £611.73 (March 2016)  to£772.21( March 2017). 


WR- UC Summary


In general ARCH and NFA members support the principles of UC and appreciate the value of encouraging individual responsibility. Having introduced a variety of initiatives and projects to support tenants into work, councils and ALMOs are also developing innovative practices including triage systems and employing additional support workers to identify and support those households in greatest need.


However, it is clear that support provided to tenants by landlords alone is not sufficient to resolve the problems being experienced and is not scalable as the roll out accelerates across the country and many more families and children become a part of the UC system. 


To date councils and landlords have borne the costs of providing essential support to tenants transitioning onto UC. Whilst this has been manageable in small numbers (currently roll out stands at 2.6% of our tenants) the level and intensity of support needed cannot be sustained by landlords alone as the roll out is set to increase rapidly over the course of 2017/18.


To improve the rollout of UC, the Report makes calls for Government to:


WR - UC Asks


John Bibby, ARCH Chief Executive, comments:


"If the level of intensive support needed to vulnerable tenants is to be sustained during the planned rollout additional resources are essential. Councils and ALMOs are therefore calling on Government to create a Transition Funding Pot to enable councils and landlords to effectively manage the rollout of UC and adequately support vulnerable tenants. Without this, increasing numbers of vulnerable households will drop through the net."


Hugh Broadbent, NFA Chair, added:

"We are strongly urging Government/DWP to halt the roll out of UC and to 'Pause for Thought' - until the system works properly for both claimants and landlords. Our members are supportive of the principles of UC and are willing to work with the DWP to find solutions to the problems identified within our survey. In the meantime we are calling on government to restrain its ambition to accelerate roll out UC over the course of 2017/18 and remove the seven day wait period."


ARCH Chair, Cllr Clare Salier, and NFA Chair, Hugh Broadbent, have written jointly to David Gauke MP, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at the DWP with a copy of the report, seeking an early meeting to discuss the findings of this latest report and we have also produced a short Briefing Paper for MPs.


Read the full report:  'Pause for Thought - Measuring the impact of welfare reform on tenants and landlords 2017 survey results'.

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