Executive Landlords and Housing Associations responding?”, “Bedroom

Executive Summary

Overview- This report contains research on how “How Housing
Providers Effectively Support Their Tenants Through the Challenges of Welfare
Reform”. The question has been broken down into Sub headings of, “The Impact on
Social Landlords and Tenants and How Tenants are being effectively supported”,
“How are Social Landlords and Housing Associations responding?”, “Bedroom Tax”
and “Risk to Housing Organisations”.

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Welfare Reform has had an effect on Social Landlords, Social
Tenants, Housing Associations, Communities and families alike.

Methods of analysis findings; Use of online resources;
reports, looking at report picking out key points to do with welfare reform,
universal credit, landlords and tenants, adapting to welfare reform, supporting
tenants, Benefits, Bedroom tax

Table of Contents

The Impact on Social Landlords and Social Tenants and How
Tenants are being effectively supported.
How are Social Landlords and Housing Associations responding?
Bedroom Tax.
Risk to Housing Organisations.

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to determine how the Welfare
Reform challenged Social landlords on effectively supporting their tenants.

Welfare Reform is a minimum income to live on, it’s also an
additional income for specific purpose such as, Child Tax Credit, Housing
Benefits or Income Support. Additionally, it is income because of needs arising
from a disability or illness.  

 

The Impact on Social
Landlords and Tenants and How Tenants are being
effectively supported.

1.0 The Welfare Reform had an impact on Social Landlords and
Tenants alike. Social housing tenants rely predominantly on benefits therefore
they were hit hard by the Welfare Reform. The main Welfare Reforms that have
affected Social Housing are:

Housing Benefit size criteria, this brought in ‘Bedroom Tax’
also referred to as ‘under-occupancy charge’, which is the deduction of rent
subsidy from social housing tenants. This means that tenants will receive less
housing benefits if they live in a property that is part of a housing
association or council property, and it has one or more spare bedrooms.

Council Tax Benefit, these changes are dependent on each Local Authority.
Housing associations have not monitored Council Tax arrears but, local
authorities have said, “issuing court summons affects rent arrears and requires
additional benefits advice.” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.2). This
means some Social Tenants are not sorting through or keeping top of their
income and debts therefore forcing them into arrears which could mean that they
are either in need of fanatical advice or refusing to pay out.

Disability benefits, not all changes made to disability
benefits affect all housing associations. Tenants with a disability do get help
with appeals and transition problems. They have to appeal for benefits, meaning
they will work with someone or a team that specialise in this area to make sure
they are entitled to disability benefits and how much they are entitled to.

Sanctions and suspensions of benefit, there have been an
increase on the amount of sanctions and suspensions of benefits due to Welfare
Reform. This has contributed to financial pressure on tenants and social
landlords. They have to provide more advice and support to tenants.

Universal Credit, dependant on the recipient and what
benefits they claim, their benefits will all be put together into one single
monthly payment that is paid directly to the tenant.

Overall benefit and rent caps, a limit has been put on the
total amount of benefits and the amount of rent for Housing Benefit.

1.1 Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2014) states
that “tenants are undergoing poverty, anxiety, debt and health problems” (Joseph
Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.1). This is due to cuts in areas such as, income
support and housing benefits. Due to these issues, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
(2014) found that “Housing associations are refocussing on front-line, face to
face and community support” (Joseph Rowntree
Foundation, 2014, p.1). This suggests that housing providers are
re-assessing their strategies when it comes to tenant support. By proceeding in
face-to-face community support, it will give housing officers a regular
first-hand look at the communities they are supporting. The Joseph Rowntree
Foundation (2014) “Associations are providing information, advice on jobs and
benefits” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.3). This will give tenants a
first step towards opening opportunities. It will enable tenants to build a Curriculum
Vitae (CV), apply for jobs best suited to them or in their best interest and
will allow them to apply for benefits that they may be entitled to.

1.2 Changes made to the housing benefit system in recent years
are going to affect a greater proportion of Social Housing Tenants in Wales
than in England and Scotland. This due to a lack of digital inclusion which
means tenants are unable to access support and online services. Consequently,
Auditor General for Wales (2015) published “Housing Benefit and personal debt
issues account for a significant proportion of requests for advice” (Auditor
General for Wales, 2015, P.3). This could mean people are either not getting
enough housing benefit and therefore going into a personal debt, it could also
mean people not able to access money management advice. The Joseph Rowntree
Foundation (2014) reported that housing associations “They increasingly advise
tenants about juggling rent, Council Tax payments, and food and energy bills.” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.3). It states
that housing associations do advise tenants on important information but, the
problem is where that information is placed and how accessible it is for
tenants to use.

1.3 Effective support is also given to tenants through Joseph
Rowntree Foundation (2014), “tackling fuel poverty and meeting crises through
hardship funds and support for food banks” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014,
p.3). This type of support would be great weight lifted off tenant’s shoulders
as food banks would provide for families in a poor financial situation as they
are free, they prove the basics when it comes to food such as, baked beans,
bread and milk. It means that children don’t miss out on days at school due to
being ill or feeling to weak meaning they get are more likely to get a good
education resulting in them being less likely to be in poverty in the future.

How are Social Landlords
and Housing Associations responding?

2.0 Social Landlords are responding to welfare Reform by adapting
to it. As determined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2014), “With their own
finances under pressure and an increasing need to support social tenants,
social landlords are refocussing their resources on face-to-face contact and
community support.” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.3). As mentioned
previously in this report “face-to-face contact and community support” is being
put forward again and Housing associations and Social Landlords are reverting
back to traditional values that made communities become one in the first place.
Social Landlords and Housing Associations are realising the importance of
community investment by developing a “stronger focus on work, training and
skills.” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.3). There have also been develops
on programmes such as ‘Housing plus’, “a programme to help tenants and
landlords beyond narrow housing services, is growing as associations realise
the importance of wider community investment.” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014, p.3. Programmes such as this
one that are centred around communities can help people feel supported by peers
especially with things such as Welfare Reform.

2.1 A lot of Social Housing tenants either are not digitally
included or struggle with the use of information technology (IT). Research
conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2014) says that “There is a drive
to transfer resources to the front line and make greater use of portable IT to
allow staff to take immediate action.” With the use of portable Information
Technology such as, Laptops and iPads staff from housing organisations can use
these tools to educate tenants on computers, this will adapt tenants to 21st
century technology.

 “There is a clearer division
between arrears enforcement and tenant support to ensure that rent arrears policies
are being more rigidly enforced.”

 

Bedroom Tax

3.0 Bedroom Tax has affected a lot of social tenants with
because of Welfare Reform. Bedroom tax has affected social tenants by causing
emotional upset and stress over fanatical management. The National Housing Federation (2015) reported “most
reported that they have little room for manoeuvre in their budgets and that
finding the extra money is very difficult.” (National Housing Federation, 2015,
p.5). Stress due to bedroom is understandable, an example from 2017 would be if
your rent is £100 per week, you would need to pay an extra £14 for one spare
room or an extra £25 if you have two spare rooms. Bedroom tax is having a
massive impact on social tenants as reported by National Housing Federation
(2015) “In order to make ends meet, tenants reported cutting back on food
shopping expenditure, by buying lower quality food, as well as reducing the use
of central heating and electricity.” The impact of bedroom tax is obvious in
this quote, as social tenants potentially damaging the health of themselves and
their families or any other occupants in the house. The National Housing
Federation (2015) recognised these issues and also reported on it, “It is
evident that housing associations have invested significant time and resources
to help deal with the impacts of the policy. However, the bedroom tax is having
significant impacts on the wellbeing and household finances of tenants.”
(National Housing Federation, 2015, p.5).

3.1 As the report states, National Housing Federation (2015),
these are not “isolated experiences”. The National Housing Federation (2015),
conducted a survey on social tenants and found “a third of affected tenants
(32%) report spending less money on food in response to the bedroom tax and a
quarter (26%) report cutting back on heating and energy costs.” (National
Housing Federation, 2015, p.5), this shows just how much a small payment of
money such as £14 per week, (£56 per month), can have a significant effect on
social housing tenant’s quality of life. The National Housing Federation (2015)
has also reported a staggering of 55% of tenants affected by bedroom tax, “More
than half (55%) of affected tenants say that, in the last 12 months, they had
very often run out of money by the end of the week or month”

 

Risks to Housing Organisations

4.0 Risks of from
the welfare reform are the benefit caps and removal of automatic housing
benefit entitlement, there’s also a benefit cap on Universal Credit. These
risks would impact on organisations by increasing Rent Arrears, increasing
staff, increased turn over and increased stress for both staff and tenants.
This situation could be resolved by employing more staff to relieve pressure,
evaluating job roles this could be done by downsizing departments, training
more staff would add more sufficient help, employment support would help
tenants earn a living, and finally, supported tenancy and action plans will
help tenants with everyday living and alleviate stress.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, Welfare Reform is hitting housing providers
such as Housing Associations and social Landlords hard as well as Social
Tenants.

 

References

GREAT BRITAIN, JOSEPH ROWNTREE FOUNDATION. (2014) The Impact
of Welfare Reform on Social Landlords and Tenants. York.

GREAT BRITAIN, AUDITOR GERNRAL FOR WALES. (2015) Managing
the impact of Welfare Reform Changes on Social Housing Tenants in Wales.
Cardiff.

Great Britain, NATIONAL HOUSING FEDERATION. (2015) Welfare
Reform Impact Assessment: Final Assessment – January 2015. London.