Bron Afon has been taking part in a national demonstration project to test a range of different payment triggers and levels of support for Housing Benefit claimants, ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit. Whilst the message from the Department for Work and Pensions is that the majority of claimants are managing their own rent, our experience is that debt amongst tenants on direct payment is significantly higher than amongst the general tenant population.
The Department for Work and Pensions agree that there needs to be protection for both tenants and landlords for when people build up debt and help needs to be targeted at those vulnerable people who should not be placed on direct payments.
In the Torfaen project area:
- 31% of Bron Afon tenants taking part thought they would cope poorly with direct payment and 36% felt they would need significant long term support.
- 1 in 4 of our cases have now been switched back, meaning we receive their housing benefit directly.
- The rent collection process demands considerably more effort for a lower rate of return.
- Contact levels with tenants are three times higher than was the case previously.
- Texting timely reminders to pay appear to be having a positive impact when backed up with next day intervention in cases of non-payment.
- Our rent collection rates in March 2013 showed that tenant payments stood at 94.6% of the overall rent charged.
What happens next?
The projects will be extended for a further six months until December 2013 to develop the support needed for tenants moving onto Universal Credit.
We are playing a vital role in influencing the future of Universal Credit. Bron Afon will continue to work with Charter Housing and Torfaen County Borough Council to feed the lessons we learn back into the design process.
Bron Afon’s project team – part of the Welfare Reform project – will be focusing on ensuring that tenants pay their rent, providing support for those who need it and testing a range of payment initiatives.
If you have any questions, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Community Housing and Support, Bron Afon Community Housing