Cited at PMQs over eviction rates related to Universal Credit, a housing association has thrown its figures – and record – back at the commons.
At PMQs yesterday (Oct 11) Gloucester City Homes (GCH) was said by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to have “evicted one in eight of all of its tenants because of Universal Credit”.
GCH says the evictions quoted by Corbyn relate to eight of the current 66 UC claimants at September 2017 – compared to GCH’s overall eviction rate of one tenant for the remaining 4,442 tenanted homes.
Last month, alongside 137 other housing providers, GCH provided an update to the Commons Select Committee; Universal Credit Inquiry with information based on its experience to date.
The association concedes that this was the likely source of the Corbyn claim.
With a full UC roll-out due live in Gloucester in February, GCH says it has been monitoring the outcomes and learning from the full service pilots.
This includes working with the local DWP on the resulting changes to improve the administration of the UC process – including the launch of a new DWP information portal and trusted partner status.
At present, GCH says it is not seeing a great take up of the advance payment options.
In all of the eight cases referenced, GCH said it followed a “significant safeguarding process” which consisted of at least 11 stages abiding with a pre-action protocol designed to avoid legal action and sustain tenants in their homes.
Prior to the introduction of UC, the average level of arrears for the eight evicted UC claimants was £770 – an average of 2.5 months of rent arrears.
At the point of eviction, this had risen to an average of £1,828 – an average of five months of rent arrears.
The average level of arrears across all UC claims is £361 – an average of one month rent arrears.
All told, 85% of UC claimants in Gloucester were already in rent arrears before going on to the new UC system which represents 46 of 66 claimants to date.
GCH says it has a strong track record of collecting rental income and supporting tenants to manage their arrears.
At the end of March this year, the association had collected 99.95% of all rental income (as a % of rent due) which is above top quartile performance of 98.07%.
Support mechanisms include providing funding assistance for both Gloucester Law Centre and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to provide direct and speedy access to welfare benefits advice for our tenants – who are also sign-posted to the Gloucester Credit Union for short term loans and access to credit.
During 2016-2017, Gloucester Law Centre secured over £700,000 of benefits for GCH tenants.
Over the same period, GCH made 343 direct referrals to the CAB for debt advice. We have also developed an in-house financial inclusion team working with every new tenant to ensure that they are able to afford their rent and manage their income on an on-going basis.
Earlier this month, the GCH Board agreed an updated Welfare Reform Strategy which set out continued plans for tenant support and income stream.