Welfare reform: Housing association reveals direct payment plans
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
Welfare reform: Housing association reveals direct payment pilot plans
Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) and Wakefield Council have been chosen by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to pilot the payment of housing benefit directly to tenants from June this year.
There are four other teams of councils and their housing association partners piloting the new measure - which will come in as part of Universal Credit in 2013.
Universal Credit will roll together six-income related benefits, including housing benefit, and will be paid monthly to tenants.
Here, Kevin Dodd (pictured), chief executive of Wakefield and District Housing, which owns and manages over 30,000 homes, discusses the landlord's involvement in the 12-month pilot and what it hopes to learn.
"As one of the largest housing associations in the UK, we’re extremely pleased to be leading this demonstration project alongside Wakefield Council on behalf of other housing associations and local authorities across the north of England.
"The DWP have already said that direct payments will be going ahead. For us it is a case of testing how both tenants and landlords are supported when direct payments are introduced.
"The Universal Credit system’s radical changes will affect more than 34,000 Wakefield citizens, which is around 10 per cent of the district’s population.
"WDH manages 31,000 properties on behalf of nearly 60,000 tenants. We know that nearly two thirds of our tenants receive Housing Benefit, and many will receive other benefits such as Child Benefit, Tax Credit and Council Tax Credit.
"In particular, between October 2013 and 2017, nearly 29,000 Housing Benefit claimants in Wakefield will be affected by the introduction of Universal Credit. Around 11,600 of these people will also be affected by Direct Payments. Of these, a further 5,500 people could also have their benefit reduced because their home is considered too big for their needs.
"Considering all of the above, WDH needs to use its experience to shape and influence the Government’s final policy, ensuring it meets the needs of local people.
"There is also the potential to encourage people back into employment.
"Significant pressure will be placed on housing associations and local authorities alike to ensure that the appropriate support is in place for those receiving Direct Payments. If not, the system could be flawed from the outset and the risks could be great.
"We are also concerned that the traditional definition of a ‘vulnerable person’ may leave out some people in our communities who are financially vulnerable, so we will be working with the DWP to clarify this position.
"In the meantime, WDH and Wakefield Council will be working closely to ensure we develop the appropriate processes and safeguards so that people are not ‘set up to fail’.
"Our strong ties with the council have continued since we transferred from them in March 2005, placing us in an ideal situation to manage both the short-term and long-term issues which arise out of the pilot.
"We believe that tenants should be offered maximum choice and opportunity to decide for themselves how they manage their personal finances."