As the Universal Credit digital roll-out increases, the stories of people experiencing difficulties and increasing rent arrears are appearing everywhere.
With one third of the jobcentre areas where Accent has homes now operating the digital service, and the increasing number of claimants, we now have clear insight of the impact. But, as the sector learns to adapt, so do our customers, and we are now also hearing examples of positive experiences. It seems some customers may actually prefer the ‘new world’ Universal Credit has created.
From the outset, our approach to UC has been collaborative – from establishing strong working relationships with the DWP, to internal teams working together in the pursuit of managing arrears and sustaining tenancies. The trend we are experiencing seems different from what many others in the sector are reporting. Our pro-active approach has seen our evictions fall and our arrears levels reduce. We have aligned elements of our income recovery process and resources with the DWP’s aims by supporting customers to be financially capable. With the continuous investment in our tenancy sustainability service, we have adopted a sustainability driven culture , saving thousands of tenancies from failing and maximising our customers’ incomes which benefits our customers and our communities in the long term.
We were recently made a trusted partner of the DWP and allowed access to the landlord portal. This development, along with the announcements in the recent chancellor’s speech, is indicative of the sector’s influence and how the DWP aims to work alongside the sector to minimise the impact on arrears. It is a time for collaboration and influence not finger pointing and blaming.
Income recovery strategies continue to evolve as trends and the environments we work in change. Housing associations must be agile and respond to the unexpected by investing in their people and technology. We are exploring technological advances to deal with wastage, enabling us to be efficient and intelligently target resource. The demand on our people doesn’t change as they are required to be adaptable and innovative whilst keeping customers at the forefront.
As we develop a new corporate strategy, it is clear we have challenges ahead. Our aim is to provide a predictive and preventative income service which is customer facing, using insight, technology and people. We will continue our collaborative approach by engaging and sharing our learning so the future of social housing and our collective ambition to be part of the solution is a reality.