Halton Housing Trust represented at the Council to the Work & Pensions Select Committee

Our CEO Nick Atkin has been in the news over the last few weeks, having given evidence on behalf of the four main housing associations within Halton as well as the Council to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into Universal Credit firmly.

As well as representing the Trust’s own experiences, Nick also coordinated the views and supporting evidence from Riverside, Plus Dane, Liverpool Housing Trust and Halton Borough Council on the impact Universal Credit has had locally on people’s lives.

Nick highlighted the negative effect the roll out of Universal Credit was having on families within the borough. Our own survey indicated 64% of those customers had a negative experience when claiming Universal Credit. The survey also found improvements were needed with communication, timeliness, accuracy of payments and additional support.

Issues discussed included a clear body of evidence to support slowing down the roll out of Universal Credit. The evidence highlighted how the existing DWP systems and processes were not working effectively. The case was made for additional support for those on Universal Credit in managing their finances, especially as claimants receiving Universal Credit who had also experienced an increase in rent arrears.

Nick’s evidence concluded with six key recommendations:

1. Slow down the rollout of UC to ensure DWP continue to apply their ‘test and learn’ approach rather than just pursuing an artificial timetable.

2. Acceleration of the rollout of the landlord portal (currently scheduled for October 2018) in conjunction with a review of the Trusted Partner Status.

3. A simplified electronic payment system from DWP to both claimants and landlords

4. Consistency of service, timescales, information and advice for claimants which is underpinned by legislation. There should also be a transparent complaints process.

5. Prepare for increased levels of claimant support as more complex cases start to enter the UC transition process. Increase the Local Partnership Manager to a full time role.

6. Reduce the maximum overall deduction from claimants from 40% to 20% and ensure reasons for all deductions are notified to claimants.

For more information on the content covered at the Work and Pensions Committee see the following links: · Guardian article · 24 Housing article · Channel 4 News coverage · BBC website coverage · Full transcript of the Select Committee Hearing and the link to the full video recording · Inside Housing IH50 article

If you are currently struggling with Universal Credit, or are having other financial concerns, why not check out our handy LifeKit tools which has lots of free advice on how best to manage your finances – find our more here