A report examined the range of government support available to help families to access suitable housing and avoid homelessness in the United Kingdom (the housing 'safety net'). It said that existing provision missed many households that were in need, with 3.4 million households at risk of falling through the safety net (having low-income and high relative housing costs), and one in ten having sold possessions to meet their housing costs. Overall, the report concluded that policy based on incentivization (such as the approach to housing benefit) could not work within the existing United Kingdom labour and housing markets, and it might be more effective to insure housing costs against loss of income for a period of about six months. It said that policy could be informed by international comparative research in related areas.
Source: Donald Houston, Darja Reuschke, Albert Sabater, Keith Maynard, and Norman Stewart, Gaps in the Housing Safety Net, University of St Andrews
A report said that the long term rise in housing benefit spending was due to housing and labour market restructuring as well as increased rent levels, and that reducing the trend in spending would require changes in the labour market, housing, and regional policy. It said that this would require measures such as: a substantial increase in the supply of low-rent social rented homes; changes in funding rules, including the use of receipts from right to buy sales to replace homes on a one-for-one basis; incentivizing rent restraint by linking universal credit for private sector tenants to a proportion of the rent (articulated in the report with some related conditions); the repeal of the under-occupation deduction from housing benefit (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'); employer incentives for a living wage; and investment in infrastructure and skills outside of the south east of England (to stimulate economic growth and reduce unemployment).
Source: Ticking the Box... for a Welfare System that Works, Chartered Institute of Housing
A second reading was given to a private member's Bill designed to secure a review of the availability of affordable and intermediate housing in England by the Secretary of State, and to introduce three new exemptions to the application of the under-occupation deduction from housing benefit (or the housing element of universal credit) for claimants who were deemed to be under-occupying their social rented homes (frequently referred to as the 'spare room subsidy' or the 'bedroom tax'). The housing benefit exemptions would apply in England, Wales, and Scotland to: certain disabled occupiers in adapted accommodation; certain disabled occupants in receipt of disability living allowance or personal independence payment who were not able to share a bedroom; and all claimants where their landlord or local authority had not made a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation.
Source: Affordable Homes Bill, Andrew George MP, TSO | Debate 5 September 2014, columns 550-611, House of Commons Hansard, TSO
An article examined the performance of council tax and housing benefits administration services in England during the period 1993-2011. It said that, under compulsory competitive tendering, the performance of the system had been poor, there had been little improvement under subsequent performance regimes, and it was not until the 'comprehensive performance assessment' framework was introduced that sustained and significant improvements had become evident. It was too early to judge whether these latest trends would be maintained under the coalition government's 'localism' regime.
Source: Peter Murphy, Kirsten Greenhalgh, and Martin Jones, 'Housing and council tax benefits administration in England: a long-term perspective on the performance of the local government delivery system', Local Government Studies, Volume 40 Issue 5
A report provided early findings from the evaluation of the removal of the spare room subsidy from housing benefits claims (RSRS, commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'). It said that, at the time of the research, four out of five claimants affected by the RSRS were reported to be paying some or all of their shortfall, although half of these had not paid in full. Although to date there had been very few evictions solely as a result of the RSRS, the report said there was widespread concern about the impact of potential future evictions. It said that the demand for downsizing had been greater than anticipated, and had been difficult to meet in many areas. The evaluation was ongoing, with further fieldwork to be conducted later in 2014 and a final report due in 2015.
Source: Anna Clarke, Lewis Hill, Ben Marshall, Sarah Monk, Isabella Pereira, Eleanor Thomson, Christine Whitehead, and Peter Williams, Evaluation of Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy: Interim report, Research Report 882, Department for Work and Pensions
A series of reports provided findings to date from the evaluation of the Direct Payment Demonstration Projects (DPDPs) that were established in six local authority areas in 2012 to test the direct payment of housing benefit to tenants living in social housing, ahead of the switch to universal credit. The reports examined: the main findings from all the strands of research and analysis at the 12 month stage; rent 'underpayment' in DPDP; a 12 months' rent account analysis exercise; and a stage 2 survey of tenants. A fifth report provided an overview of the four main reports. Findings included: that arrears had initially risen following introduction of direct payments, but payment rates had improved over the 12 months (although arrears had not been cleared); payment patterns were more complex than simply 'payers' and 'non-payers', such that it was difficult to forecast accurately who would and would not manage on direct payments (this was said to be a key point on which further learning was needed); underpayment was more frequent than non-payment; local relationships between the housing benefit administrator (local authorities) and social housing landlords were key to the success of DPDP (and this relationship would needed to be replicated between the Department for Work and Pensions and landlords once universal credit took over responsibility for housing-related payments, requiring some form of data sharing); and that most DPDP tenants had not received support or advice regarding the switch to direct payments (for a variety of reasons), but there was evidence to suggest that support did benefit those who had received it.
Source: Paul Hickman, Kesia Reeve, and Stephen Green, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: 12 months in extended learning report, Research Report 876, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Paul Hickman, Kesia Reeve, Ian Wilson, Stephen Green, and Peter Kemp, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: Rent underpayment, Research Report 877, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Peter Kemp, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: Report from the stage 2 survey of tenants, Research Report 878, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Kesia Reeve, Ian Wilson, Paul Hickman, and Chris Dayson, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: Key findings of the 12-months' rent account analysis exercise, Research Report 879, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Paul Hickman, Kesia Reeve, Ian Wilson, Stephen Green, Chris Dayson, and Peter Kemp, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: 12 month stage reports, Department for Work and Pensions
The government published a range of final reports evaluating the impact of changes to the local housing allowance (LHA) system of housing benefit from April 2011. The second wave of the primary research with landlords and tenants had been completed in spring 2013, at which time the LHA measures had only just started to affect all claimants and the impact of the measures on some claimants would also have been reduced by the temporary support provided by discretionary housing payments. The summary report therefore noted that some lagged effects would continue to emerge and that it would become increasingly difficult over time to attribute any changes to the LHA reforms, as opposed to other welfare reform measures or broader changes in the housing market.
Source: Christina Beatty, Ian Cole, Ryan Powell, Peter Kemp, Mike Brewer, James Browne, Carl Emmerson, Andrew Hood, and Robert Joyce, The Impact of Recent Reforms to Local Housing Allowances: Summary of key findings, Research Report 874, Department for Work and Pensions
A report examined the impacts of the changes to local housing allowance within the context of London's higher housing costs and, in particular, the impact of recent policy on disposable household income, increased work incentives, and spending on housing benefit. The report had been commissioned alongside research that took a longitudinal approach to examining in more detail the impact and awareness of benefits changes on sixteen families.
Source: Hannah Aldridge and Peter Kenway, Can the Changes to LHA Achieve Their Aims in London's Housing Market?, New Policy Institute
A report provided findings from a study of the impact of national benefits policy changes on sixteen households with children who were claiming local housing allowance and housing benefit for privately rented properties in London. The research aimed to understand the awareness of households as to the impact of policy changes on their incomes, and to understand how they responded to any changes. The research had been commissioned alongside a report that looked more generally at the impact of changes to local housing allowance in London.
Source: Rezina Chowdhury and Natalie Cass, The Experiences of Families Claiming Housing Benefit During a Time of Cuts and Changes to Benefits, GFK
A report said that there were rising numbers of social housing tenants in arrears in England, and a rise in the level of rent owed, since the removal of the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax') in April 2013. Drawing on surveys conducted in September and December 2013, it said that, in the three month period from March to June 2013, the number of council households in arrears rose by 21 per cent, with the total monetary value of arrears rising by 16 per cent. The report said that, on average, just under 5 per cent of tenants affected by the bedroom tax had moved to alternative social housing, with the majority (60 per cent on average) attempting to 'pay and stay'. The survey had found that around 11 per cent of households affected by the penalty were in receipt of discretionary housing payments at the end of December 2013, and landlords reported reduced levels of demand for some types of properties in some areas.
Source: Welfare Reform Survey – 2013/14 Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 Update: Summary of responses, NFA/ARCH/CWAG
A report examined data from six housing associations in central/southern England relating to the impact of the reduction of the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'). It said that, although some tenants had moved or found work to avoid the bedroom tax, most (70 per cent) remained affected by the policy. Issues raised in the report included: that a shortage of smaller homes prevented people from downsizing; that higher demand for smaller properties meant that, in some areas, housing associations let larger houses to families who might still under-occupy them but who were not in receipt of housing benefit; that there appeared to be inconsistency in the assessment of entitlement for discretionary housing payments; and that the numbers of tenants with rent arrears (42.5 per cent) indicated that many were struggling financially. The report was the third in a series of reports on the impact of the policy.
Source: Here and There: One year on – the bedroom tax hits home, Grand Union Housing Group
A paper (by an official advisory body) discussed the cumulative impact assessment of the government's welfare reforms. It presented a descriptive overview of the changes and discussed some of the existing research and commentary on their impact. It said that some, largely negative, overall assessments of impact already existed, in particular for impacts across the income distribution or geographic areas, but that these focused on direct and immediate effects of reforms and did not assess any potentially positive effects of universal credit. The report said that, while some case study evidence existed, it did not yet reveal the full range of impacts. The report concluded that many of the welfare reforms were designed to have longer-term positive impacts, including changes in claimant behaviour, and that it was too soon to assess the consequential impact of work incentives on claimant behaviour. Recommendations were made to the government for: further secondary analysis to examine the impact of reform on vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities; case studies, based on model households, to examine the cumulative impact of reforms; the extension of the evaluation of universal credit, to include the impact of the wider programme of reform; and for specific reconsideration of the cumulative impact on vulnerable claimant groups, in light of this further analysis.
Source: The Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform: A commentary, Occasional Paper 12, Social Security Advisory Committee
A report by a committee of MPs said that the Scottish Government should make a clear commitment to using discretionary housing payments to mitigate all the financial impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy (often referred to as the 'bedroom tax') on tenants in Scotland. It called on both the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments to expedite the necessary procedures that would enable the Scottish Government to remove the cap on DHPs in Scotland as quickly as possible.
Source: The Impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland: Devolving the DHP cap, Fourteenth Report (Session 201314), HC 1292, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, TSO
A report provided the findings from a survey of social housing tenants regarding the impact of the social sector size criteria (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'). The respondents were all general needs tenants of working age. The report said that: nearly one-third (32 per cent) of people affected by the bedroom tax said they had cut back on food; more than one-quarter (26 per cent) had reduced spending on heating; almost half (46 per cent) of those affected had needed to borrow money to help pay their rent since the introduction of the measure; and there were wide concerns about future ability to pay rent and other bills, and even about potential eviction. Of those affected, one in five respondents said that they were currently looking to move home.
Source: National Housing Federation, One Year On: The impact of welfare reforms on housing association tenants, Ipsos MORI
A report examined how housing associations in England had responded to changes in the provision and administration of benefits since April 2013. Building on work outlined in an earlier report, it said that strategic responses had included measures such as amending policies and practices, reviewing development plans, and mobilizing staff from across different departments. It said that, overall, associations thought they and their tenants were managing the impacts effectively, particularly the size criteria (bedroom tax) and the benefit cap, but the imposition of jobseekers allowance sanctions was a rising issue and the implementation and administration of discretionary housing payments was inconsistent. Tenants' responses to the size criteria had mostly been to remain in their homes and pay the increased proportion of rent, but finding full-time work was reported to be difficult. The impact on associations was greatest for those with concentrations of larger homes in lower demand areas. Associations thought they would be able to manage existing arrears levels if no further problems arose. However, they reported that some tenants were faced with an accumulation of changes including the bedroom tax, the changes in council tax benefit, and rising utility costs. The roll out of universal credit and, in particular, direct payments to tenants was thought to be likely to increase difficulties for landlords and tenants.
Source: Peter Williams, Anna Clarke, and Christine Whitehead, Housing Associations And Welfare Reform: Facing up to the realities, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (University of Cambridge)
A report by a committee of MPs examined the government's reforms to the available support for housing costs. It said that, although the government had made efforts to reduce the impact of the reforms on vulnerable groups, the committee remained concerned that some vulnerable households were suffering hardship because they could not respond to the reforms by changing their circumstances. It pointed to a number of impacts and recommended that the government should: monitor the impact on homelessness, and look at further ways of supporting claimants and local authorities if the reforms were found to be exacerbating it; take steps to mitigate the impact of the social sector size criteria (also referred to as the 'bedroom tax' or 'spare room subsidy') on people with disabilities, and, in particular, to exempt those living in significantly adapted homes and those receiving higher rate disability-related benefits; exempt all those on carers allowance resident in the same house as the person cared for, and all households in temporary accommodation, from the benefits cap; give local authorities more specific guidance on allocating discretionary housing payments, and review DHP provision to ensure long-term support where needed; commission research into the impact of council tax reduction schemes on levels of poverty in different areas; and give vulnerable claimants the option of having their housing costs support paid direct to their landlords.
Source: Support for Housing Costs in the Reformed Welfare System, Fourth Report (Session 201314), HC 720, House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, TSO
A report examined the use of the discretionary housing payment (DHP) budget in Scotland. The DHP was intended to mitigate the impact of welfare reform by providing short-term help with housing costs, and the Scottish Government had made an additional £20 million of funding available to local authorities in October 2013. The report said that the level of spending in each local authority had been varied but, by the end of 2013, eight had spent less than 30 per cent of the allocated funds. It called on local authorities to: take action to allocate funds; to review all earlier DHP applications in light of the additional funding; to publish DHP policies and eligibility criteria; and to promote the fund to potential applicants and advice agencies.
Source: Monitoring the Use of Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland, Shelter Scotland
A report by a committee of MPs said that it remained in favour of abolishing the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax') and, in the meantime, remained in favour of mitigating the effect of the tax through changes proposed in its earlier report. However, it said that the committee disagreed with the use of discretionary housing payments to mitigate the impact in Scotland, since it was ineffective in reaching difficult-to-access groups. The report called on the Scottish government to rethink its plans for 2014-15, and to mitigate the impact for 2013-14 by writing off arrears and refunding payments that had been made by tenants. The report incorporated the government's response to the committee's earlier report on this topic, which reaffirmed the government's commitment to removing the spare room subsidy.
Source: The Impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland: Plan B – charges, arrears and refunds; incorporating the Government Response to the Committeeï¿½s Fourth Report of Session 2013-14, Ninth Report (Session 201314), HC 937, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, TSO