Magenta Housing Association - Impact of Welfare Reform
- Meeting of Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 31st January 2017 6.00 p.m. (Item 39.)
To receive a presentation from Magenta Housing Association in relation to the impact of Welfare Reform.
The Committee considered a presentation from Magenta Living updating Members on the impacts of welfare reform on their tenants.
Mr B Simpson, Chief Executive of Magenta Living introduced the presentation giving a brief introduction to Magenta Living which was established in February 2005, their vision was to ‘Provide homes and build communities’. Mr Simpson reported that 1,319 homes were let last year and 751 new homes had been built since the transfer. The presentation reported the impacts that tenants faced as a result of the Welfare Reform, in particular the under-occupancy deduction, Universal Credit, and the benefits cap.
He highlighted just some of the impacts this had, had on service provision including an increase in tenants terminating their tenancy; returning to live with family; evictions; property vacancies. Officers had also faced difficulties in re-housing couples and single people who had access to children.
Magenta was faced with increase pressure on their resources in particular, assisting tenants applying for DHP or Universal Credit; resources were also stretched in supporting those at risk of losing their homes. This had a massive impact on the officer’s ability to provide timely assistance to the non-urgent cases.
Mr Simpson commented on the future changes that would affect Magenta Living in the future to include the changes to the LHA Cap which would be come into force from 2019.
In relation to the Council’s 2020 Vision, Mr Simpson highlighted some of the ways in which Magenta Living was supporting the People, Environment and Business pledges. He indicated that Magenta Living was more than ‘bricks and mortar’ and provided a wide range of services including: welfare benefits advice, jobs and training, community involvement and future plans to build new homes for rent and for sale to meet the wider demand.
The Chair advised the Committee that if they felt it would be beneficial a spotlight session could be arranged.
Mr Roach explained that there was five weeks in between each claim for Universal Credit but for the first seven days a claimant would receive no benefits. He commented that it was inevitable that people would struggle to manage for 5 weeks with no money. Officers were advising tenants in this situation to access loans from the DWP but these were funds that had to be repaid quickly therefore, it was envisaged that tenants would fall into arrears. But the team advised tenants the importance of paying their Council Tax as a priority.
Following the roll out of Universal Credit, Mr Roach indicated that there would be an expected spike in demand as at present the system could not cope with complex cases. It was expected that there would be a spike in November and there was a danger that officers would be inundated with applications.
To assist those tenants who were computer illiterate, Magenta had established a customer hub with staff on hand to assist tenants using the PC’s to process claims, pay online bills etc. during the transition to the new online payments system this would be monitored on a regular basis.
Under the Right to Buy Scheme, Mr Simpson indicated that tenants had the right to purchase their homes. He highlighted the current pilot scheme being undertaken in the Midlands in relation to a new scheme for Housing Association Agreements, this could be introduced 2018/19.
In response Member questions, Mr Simpson reported that two organisations (Hilbre Homes and Bamboo Lettings) had been established to provide social housing. Profits from both organisations could be used to subsidise the lack of Government grant received.
In relation to Clifton Avenue, Magenta was looking to re-house tenants and re-use the site to develop a new homes scheme. They had spent funds on to re-configuring 3/4 bed properties but this had not worked. Officers had also further explored shared accommodation schemes as a possible option; whereby tenants were encourage to approach Magenta with a view to sharing their accommodation with people they know. This was proving more popular amongst younger tenants.
That Mr Simpson and Mr Roach be thanked for their informative presentation.