Why we want to hear your experiences of Universal Credit

Every quarter we survey our members to find out how Universal Credit is impacting them and their residents – here’s how to make sure your organisation is filling it in.

Anya Martin is Senior Researcher at National Housing Federation

Anya Martin is Senior Researcher at National Housing Federation

4 July 2019

Every quarter we ask our members about their experience of Universal Credit, in order to understand how changes to the benefit system are affecting tenants and residents.

Why should your organisation respond?

The survey results give us the evidence we need to press DWP for important changes in the delivery of Universal Credit – so the more people that fill it in, the more effective our lobbying can be.

It gives us insight into how Universal Credit works on the ground, and its impact on arrears and risk of eviction.

For example, we’ve used the results to:

  • Push for greater flexibility and information around Advance Payments. Members told us through our survey that this was important, so our Policy team worked hard on it, and recent results in our survey now show that housing associations’ satisfaction with Advance Payments has significantly increased.
  • Push DWP to reform the four-weekly payment system to a monthly one. This system has caused problems because some financial years (including this one) have 13 payment cycles instead of the typical 12. This means that associations don’t receive payment in one cycle. In December 2018, Neil Couling, Director General of Universal Credit, wrote to the Federation to set out a commitment to redesign the system in 2019.

What have we heard recently through our survey?

  • Tenants on Universal Credit remain more than twice as likely to be in arrears compared with other tenants.
  • Residents are consistently requiring support with almost all aspects of Universal Credit, including making and managing claims, assessment, advances, payment breakdown, and using the helpline.
  • There’s a continued increase in demand on staff time, especially for welfare advice and the issuing of foodbank vouchers.
  • Our members say they are generally satisfied with their partnership managers, the rent verification process and applying for an Alternative Payment Arrangement via the Landlord Portal. However, timely and accurate receipt of direct-to-landlord payments remains a serious concern and it’s something we’ve raised with DWP.

How to find out if your organisation completes our survey

To find out if your organisation completes the survey, or ask any other questions, please contact me. I can also share results from our previous surveys.

You can also sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Universal Credit and welfare reform.

What’s happening next?

We’re focusing our work on six urgent proposals for reform:

  • ending the five-week wait
  • ending the freeze on working age benefits from April 2020
  • making sure that work pays, by matching monthly assessments to earnings within that period, restoring work allowances, and reducing the taper rate
  • allowing more data sharing between the DWP and social landlords by restoring “implicit consent” and improving two-way communications on the Landlord Portal
  • increasing funding for support and advice, and introducing flexibility of backdating for those who need it
  • ensuring that landlords receive their payments on the same cycle as their tenant.

We’re also continuing to work with DWP on the urgency of reforming the four-weekly payment system and how best to roll out the Landlord Portal to smaller housing associations, as well as continuing to press for improvements to the Helpline.

The move to Universal Credit of existing benefits claimants is being trialled in Harrogate from July this year. Housing associations and the Federation are working closely with DWP to ensure that people do not fall between the gaps during migration.

If you haven’t already, we urge Universal Credit leads to complete our latest survey by 23 July 2019.

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