A scheme aimed at making it easier for Universal Credit claimants to have housing costs paid directly to social landlords is being trialled in Oldham.
Under Universal Credit housing costs are paid directly to the claimant, rather than social landlords, which has led to fears that vulnerable tenants could fall behind on their rent payments.
Social landlords can request that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) redirects rent payments, but only if tenants accumulate two months worth of rent arrears – known as an ‘alternative payment arrangement’ (APA).
The ‘Trusted Partner Status’ pilot will allow social landlords to identify tenants who they believe will struggle to keep up with rent payments. The DWP will then automatically redirect housing costs included in Universal Credit to social landlords, without first requiring a formal application.
First Choice Homes Oldham began trialling the new scheme last month, reports Inside Housing. The scheme could be rolled out to a number of trial areas, where the take-up of Universal Credit is at its highest.
Protections are in place against social landlords who make large numbers of requests for APAs, purely for the purpose of rent collection. Should this be discovered, landlords will lose their ‘Trusted Partner Status’ and be reverted back to only asking for an APA after two months of missed rent payments.
A spokesperson for the DWP told Inside Housing: “Paying housing benefit directly to claimants under universal credit replicates the world of work and gives tenants the independence to manage their own finances.
“But as this pilot shows, we will continue to work with housing associations and landlords to ensure that the most vulnerable get the support they need.”
Official government figures show that 53,970 people were claiming Universal Credit as of May 2015.