Update: The effects of Universal Credit

Council housing tenants in arrears

Homes for Haringey
Credit: Luchia Robinson

By Luchia Robinson

A report assessing the impact of Universal Credit (UC) upon Homes for Haringey (HfH) tenants finds that residents in receipt of the means tested benefit are twice as likely to be in rent arrears as before its introduction.

According to the report by Housing Management organisation, HfH, the arrears of its 1529 tenants currently receiving the benefit have worsened since their migration to UC – with tenants who move in and out of work having the highest arrears.

UC payments are made five or more weeks in arrears. The report finds that advance payments which can be made to claimants, tend not to be used to pay rent. As a result, rent arrears accrue throughout the transition period on to the benefit.

HfH has noted that tenants who have made an advance payment claim in the assessment stage are having high deductions made once the UC benefit is in payment.

The self-employed are particularly affected, so too are residents without English as their first language, who face insufficient access to translation facilities.

HfH finds there to be an increasing demand for intensive support such as budgeting advice. New tenants are requiring support using the online claim forms and understanding how the benefit is calculated. More vulnerable tenants have also struggled to manage the monthly payment.

Direct rent payments (Alternative Payment Arrangements -APAs) which are requested once arrears exceed two calendar months, have been set up by HfH to include the rental costs, and where appropriate, payments towards arrears.

The report states: ‘Information from our tenants indicates that their income has generally reduced since they have been in receipt of UC and many are finding it difficult to manage. Our income teams are issuing more vouchers for tenants to gain access to local food banks to assist tenants requiring additional support.’

Existing claimants of legacy benefits will be transferred to Universal Credit from this year.