Welfare reform one year on
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Regulation
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By Natalie Sutherland, strategic lead for welfare reform, Home Group
Given Home Group’s geographical spread from Dundee to Devon, it’s no surprise that the impact of welfare reform has been felt differently across the UK.
In the South, we are finding households impacted by the benefit cap more so than the rest of the UK.
In some estates within our North West and North East communities, where we have large concentrations of family housing in areas of low housing demand, under-occupancy is manifesting itself in voids and hard to let larger properties.
In addition, in some of areas of the North there is also a problem of low levels of one and two-bedroom homes for our customers to move to as a result of previous policies which have promoted the building of family houses.
This is compounded by the fact that in the North East and parts of Scotland, many of our areas are some of the most deprived communities in the UK. Here we are seeing customers struggling to make ends meet.
For us no one size fits all and we have worked with our customers to try to find some solutions to help.
We changed our allocations policy to ensure that customers are allocated properties in line with changes in government policy in relation to welfare reform. Our customers felt this would help prevent arrears in the future. We also promote guidance on how customers can safely take in a lodger as well as making sure they are aware of home swapping schemes and events.
Home Group’s efforts to support customers affected by under-occupancy have seen the number of customers affected by the bedroom tax reduce by more than 14%.
We are also piloting a new service to assist customers impacted by the benefit cap and under-occupancy who have high arrears. This support helps maximise their income though a variety of means, services and advice.
The resounding evidence to date is that proper support pays with customers seeing improvements in arrears and tenancy sustainment and we are currently formulating a plan to address how we offer this nationally to mitigate the impact of universal credit.
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