National Federation of ALMOS Arm’s Length Management Organisations and ARCH (Association of Retained Council Housing) Join Forces to Fight Universal Credit Roll-Out

Wednesday 11 July, 2018 Written by  NFA and ARCH
National Federation of ALMOS Arm’s Length Management Organisations and ARCH (Association of Retained Council Housing) Join Forces to Fight Universal Credit Roll-Out

NFA and ARCH increase the pressure on government to slow down the beleaguered Universal Credit roll-out – releasing a new report outlining the significant debt burden now on tenants and landlords alike.

The two organisations – together representing over a million council homes, voice specific concerns about the length of time it takes tenants to get control of their finances after the initial transfer to UC and the impact on council HRAs.

A resulting report Carrying the debt, Measuring the impact of Universal Credit on tenants and landlords, tracks the impact of the UC roll-out on landlords and tenants again this year.

Although acknowledging the Government has introduced improvements NFA and ARCH previously called for – including removing the 7-day waiting period, – the research reveals the arrears situation has not changed significantly and issues highlighted previously have not been resolved.

John Bibby, ARCH Chief Executive believes it will not be possible to sustain the levels of intensive support to tenants as the roll-out continues and resources become increasingly stretched.

“For this reason, we are calling on the Government to provide sufficient transitional funding for landlords to enable them to effectively manage the roll-out and adequately support vulnerable tenants,” he said.

Eamon McGoldrick, NFA Managing Director said: “We are pleased that the Government has listened to us and other partners and implemented changes to the UC system which should see improvements for tenants and landlords as the roll out progresses – we are calling on the Government to fix the biggest flaw in the UC system, which is payment in arrears.

John Bibby, ARCH Chief Executive believes it will not be possible to sustain the levels of intensive support to tenants as the roll-out continues and resources become increasingly stretched.

“For this reason, we are calling on the Government to provide sufficient transitional funding for landlords to enable them to effectively manage the roll-out and adequately support vulnerable tenants,” he said.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Average arrears for UC households (£520) were one and a half times higher than arrears in general (£328). Nearly three quarters of UC households were in arrears (74%) compared with 26% of all households
  • The situation has not changed significantly since 2017 and many of the same problems remain.
  • For tracked organisations there has been a total increase in debt of 12% up to £43.6m; 25% of this debt is from UC households even though they only make up 4% of total households
  • The length of time it can take for tenants to clear the arrears built up in the transition to UC with the knock-on effects for both the tenants and landlord is very concerning, with evidence that it can take up to 24 months to clear the debt
  • NFA and ARCH support the principles of UC and stress members are investing “significant resources” to make it work while support tenants through transition.

    The report records “positive working relationships” with local Job Centres and “positive feedback” around the new Landlord Portal.

    But there are deep concerns around the scalability of this work as more people transfer to UC, with intensive support stretched over increasing numbers of households, and a cumulative impact on local authority HRAs.

    Both still want to see Government move to payment monthly in advance rather than arrears to recognise the fact that claimants often do not have a safety net to get them through the first month.

    And recognising the fact that the current advance system is a loan which further puts claimants into debt – they also call for the Government to slow down the speed of UC roll-out until the procedural issues with the existing system have been resolved and improvements made to the APA system and Landlord Portal.

    This, they say, must be backed by a wide-reaching advertising campaign to “educate” the wider public about UC.

    ABC Note: The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, England’s National Housing Federation, Community Housing Cymru and the Northern Irish Federation of Housing Associations collectively reinforced inforce the fight against “flawed” UC citing debt, suffering and hardship caused. Housing Federations Unite to Fight Universal Credit

    Council House 02

    Image: Stock of council houses across England, Scotland and Wales has dropped to just two million and has now more than halved in the last 20 years.

    1 comment

    • Comment Link Simon Collyer Wednesday 11 July, 2018 posted by Simon Collyer

      High levels of rent arrears are hurting Councils and social housing providers. This is yet another blow to the government.

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