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DWP to study patterns of rent arrears in Full Service Areas

Blog by Jeremy Hewer, SFHA Policy Adviser 

Stung by the concerns of many organisations that Universal Credit is causing tenant arrears to build up, the DWP is to undertake a study of the rent payment history of claimants before and after their claim was made.

The DWP claims that, until recently, there has been comparatively little quantitative data to enable an assessment of the risk, as the information which DWP collects from Universal Credit claimants is determined by what is needed to assess the value of their award – that is to say, what the rent is, not what the actual state of the rent account might be.

In order to improve its understanding of the issue, DWP and Bath-based housing association Curo Group carried out a joint project to link data on Universal Credit claims and rent payment history for Curo’s tenants. The data has been used to assess the pattern of rent arrears prior to and after the start of a Universal Credit claim.

The DWP now wants to expand the work to a broader range of social landlords and locations to try to gather more robust information on Universal Credit and patterns of rent arrears and is now seeking volunteer social landlords to take part in an extended study. The DWP is looking for four or five landlords, spread throughout the mainland of Great Britain, representing:

  • social landlords with at least 1,000 tenants who are on Universal Credit (preferably Universal Credit Full Service)
  • users of the Aareon QL Housing Management System.

In addition to the analysis of the patterns of rent arrears, the DWP intends to commission primary research with a representative sample of the tenants through an external contractor to gain a fuller understanding of the tenants’ experience and reasons why the patterns of rent arrears develop.

The DWP aims to recruit volunteers and obtain the necessary data transfer permissions by the end of January 2018 in order to enable the gathering and validation of samples. It will start the data matching and pre-fieldwork activities with tenants in February and March. Overall reporting will be in early spring 2018.

If your association is interested in participating, please contact me jhewer@sfha.co.uk by 21 December.