Universal Credit Think Tank for Policy Makers

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Universal Credit Think Tank for Policy Makers

6-7 November 2018

Speakers will include Professor John Hills, from the London School of Economics and representatives from Curo Housing Association and the government.

The Think Tank for policy makers and practitioners, including councils and housing associations, senior and frontline staff, will debate how to stay viable; how to ensure full rent payments; how to live up to commitments to help tenants who struggle on low incomes; how to develop tenants’ financial resilience; and how to help shape government policy in relation to Universal Credit. It is supported by LSE Housing and Communities and the Housing Plus Academy

Universal Credit has become one of the most controversial reforms to our welfare system since housing benefit was introduced in 1981 to combat rent arrears and ensure tenants covered their rent, so landlords could maintain their property. As housing benefit costs rose, along with rents, and as social housing tenants became poorer, landlords received ever bigger benefit checks from Government, providing a guaranteed rent income they came to depend on. But many tenants lost all connection with rent payments, as the benefit went straight from government to social landlords, thus ensuring low income tenants couldn’t fall into rent arrears. Many tenants came to rely on it totally.

Universal Credit sets out to reverse that dependency. First it combines, in a single monthly payment to households, all benefit entitlements including housing benefit. Second, it forces landlords to establish direct contact with their lower income and more vulnerable tenants who are 100% dependent on benefits. Third, it forces recipients to manage their incomes like a monthly salary, even though many are paid fortnightly or unevenly in the “gig” economy or sometimes not paid at all on zero hours contract.

Universal Credit creates multiple pressures on tenants and social landlords; private landlords often refuse to take tenants on Universal Credit because payments are too uncertain and low income tenants find it hard to manage. If rents are above a certain level, Universal Credit simply won’t cover them. Homelessness is rising partly because some private landlords evict their tenants for arrears. Increasingly, social landlords are screening tenants for ability to pay.

How can tenants and landlords respond to the roll-out of Universal Credit and all of the challenges it poses? It is here to stay, but can be made better.

The Think Tank for policy makers and practitioners, including councils and housing associations, senior and frontline staff, will debate how to stay viable; how to ensure full rent payments; how to live up to commitments to help tenants who struggle on low incomes; how to develop tenants’ financial resilience; and how to help shape government policy in relation to Universal Credit. Many areas already have useful experience of Universal Credit. Curo Housing Association has offered to help by sharing its experience and advice, as over half of its working age residents in receipt of benefits are now on Universal Credit.

Government officials will provide additional information and Professor John Hills, from the London School of Economics, will provide expert advice to the Think Tank.

The Think Tank will take place at Trafford Hall, a residential training centre outside Chester, set in beautiful gardens with en-suite bedrooms, eco-friendly, carbon-neutral buildings and supportive staff. The charge for the policy and practice Think Tank is £250 per participant and £200 for second or further participants from the same organisation. The cost is £170 for small housing organisations. Our low charges cover the direct cost of running the Think Tanks and we do aim to keep our costs to a bare minimum. Please do contact us if cost is a barrier and we will help if we can. 

 

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