A new report reinforces the difficulties social landlords are still facing from the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC).
The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) report Impact of Universal Credit – The Frontline Perspective summarises a year-long study of UC, highlighting the experiences of 85 of its member organisations and their tenants across the North.
Key concerns that have emerged include the following:
- 95% of participants reported that their tenants were having difficulty in meeting housing costs. The NHC welcomed the extension of Housing Benefit announced recently which will have a significant positive impact on the level of arrears
- There is a significant impact on landlords, with 92% reporting their staff were spending more time supporting people through the UC process than the Housing Benefit process. One participant reported an increase of 90% in calls from customers
- Communication problems between participants (and their tenants) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – 89% of responding members experienced this.
Of particular concern was the impact UC is having on tenants.
Reported evictions due to rent arrears in UC cases increased from 18% to 27% during the roll-out and by the end of the study all respondents reported they were aware of food bank use – something that a number of other studies have found.
More than half of the participants were aware of an increase in tenant health issues.
These included stress and anxiety, depression, and suffering from the effects of cold and damp after being unable to heat their homes, particularly during the wait for the first payment.
The announcement of the recent one-week reduction in the waiting time for first payment was positive, but the waiting time for claimants is still significant.
Jo Boaden, chief executive, NHC, said: “The impact of UC on social landlords and their tenants is deeply concerning.
“The new system poses real challenges around rent collection and puts severe pressure on landlord resources in already challenging times.
“Worryingly, the situation could get worse for tenants as some face additional hardship over the Christmas period.
“Whilst we support the principle of simplifying the benefits system, there is clearly still work to be done to ensure it runs smoothly.
“Many of the messages on UC from the Autumn Budget were encouraging, and we urge the government to continue to listen to housing providers in the sector, who offer security and support to many of society’s most vulnerable people.
“The NHC and our members have worked closely with the DWP throughout the process and will continue to do this over the coming months.”