Over half of tenants know 'hardly anything' about benefit changes

A new study has revealed that more than half (56 percent) of housing associations and almost a third (30 percent) of councils are worried that their tenants still know hardly anything about the government's welfare changes.

The joint research by the Chartered Institute of Housing South West (CIH SW) and the National Housing Federation (NHF) found that of all the reforms, social landlords expect direct payments to have the biggest impact on their tenants.

Ninety-six percent of HAs and 100 percent of councils believe a rise in the level of arrears is likely to follow the introduction of direct payments.

To counteract this, social landlords are increasing support for tenants as well as increasing resources to manage the anticipated increase in arrears.

Almost 80 percent said they are providing extra money advice, and 64 percent of associations and all of the local authority landlords surveyed are undertaking customer analysis to help 'under-occupiers'.

The study of 54 percent of HAs, councils and ALMOs that jointly provide almost 162,000 homes in the South West also revealed that social landlords believe they will be significantly affected by the bedroom tax and the household benefit cap.

Graham Hogg, CIH SW Board Member and one of the researchers on the study said: “If, as our survey suggests, rent arrears increase by as much as 50 percent that implies social landlords and tenants will be carrying the cost of welfare reform through reduced services. Even more alarming is the finding that over 50 percent of housing association tenants have little knowledge of the changes.

"This would suggest that many affected tenants will not have been able to look for a smaller home or cut back household spending before the new rent bill comes through their letter box. It is therefore highly likely that in six months to a year’s time we will see increased evictions and homelessness across the region."