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'Tenants unaware of impact benefit changes will have on them'

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'Tenants unaware of impact benefit changes will have on them'

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Universal Credit

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New research has found that only 22% of housing providers believe their tenants understand the impact that the coming welfare changes will have on them.

Interviews with over 10,000 tenants across the country also discovered that most are not aware of the effect welfare reform will have.

The study, conducted by M•E•L Research, invited over 1,000 housing associations, councils and ALMOs to take part in the study, about a tenth of which replied. The keys findings were:

  • The aspects of welfare reform expected to have the biggest impact on tenants’ ability to pay their rent are direct payments and the bedroom tax. Three quarters of respondents thought these aspects would have a major impact.
  • Most housing providers (95%) are already offering general advice and support to their tenants on the impact of welfare reform. Many are encouraging their tenants to sign up to direct debit payments and signposting local credit unions where appropriate. 
  • A third (31%) currently offer support for their tenants with online access. Over half (56%) are planning to offer further support around online access. 
  • The results suggest that many housing providers that have not traditionally offered advice and support on money management and job seeking (around a quarter of respondents), are now planning to do so due to the new impetus introduced by welfare reform.

M•E•L’s research manager, Rob Hack, said: "When it comes to welfare reform our survey shows the housing sector has a big challenge to think outside the box. Clearly, welfare reform provides a renewed impetus for the sector to work with their tenants to improve their job prospects; the prospect of lost income for housing providers means that there is now a stronger business case for this than ever.

"Ensuring this same sense of urgency is shared by tenants requires getting the message about welfare reform out there now, and making sure tenants understand the implications for themselves and their families. Our research suggests that there is a long way to go to achieve this."

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