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09 March 2015

Direct Payment of Housing Benefit - Welsh Government Report

The Welsh Government has produced a final report of the Task and Finish Group established last year to consider the impact of Direct Payment of Housing Benefit in the Social Rented Sector and Sustainable Tenancies. The Task and Finish Group, which included representation from Community Housing Cymru and some of our members alongside a range of other interested parties, put forward a total of 15 recommendations. Several of these require action from social landlords if they are to be taken forward, although it should be noted, many are already in progress (for example, Recommendation 2 which suggests that Local Authorities engage with their local Registered Social Landlords to agree how they will manage the transition to Universal Credit; a process which we are aware is taking place currently and which CHC are facilitating at our Tranche 1 Strategic Meeting in March). The full list of recommendations which it is suggested that RSLs take forward, in all cases in partnership with other agencies, is as follows:

(Suggested ownership of each recommendation is italicised)

2. Local Authorities engage with their local Registered Social Landlords to agree how they will manage the transition to Universal Credit? - Local Authorities/Social Rented Sector Housing Providers

5. Landlords should identify the number of tenancies involved before engagement with Local Authorities - Local Authorities/Social Rented Sector Housing Providers

6. When mapping, ensure providers have the capabilities of providing the services they claim can be delivered. It is also vitally important to identify gaps in provision and consider remedies. - Department for Work and Pensions/Local Authorities/Landlords – Universal Support Delivered Locally

7. A user friendly list should be prepared comprising of:

• Support providers - separated into specialities [i.e. financial, tenancy, landlords etc.]);

• regularly managed – telephone numbers, names of contacts and email/web addresses;

• Freely accessible to all; and

• Widely publicised.

This could be agreed at the Universal Support Delivered Locally discussions

- Department for Work and Pensions/Local Authorities/Landlords – Universal Support Delivered Locally

8. Local Authorities and landlords should explore, as part of the Universal Support Delivered Locally and mapping exercise, the use of referral networks - Department for Work and Pensions/Local Authorities/Landlords – Universal Support Delivered Locally

9. The sector should consider how properties are let in the future and ensure there is consistency between Local Authority providers and Registered Social Landlord providers - Local Authorities/Social Rented Sector Housing Providers

10. Universal Support Delivered Locally Processes need to be mindful of the services provided by floating support workers and their ability to signpost customers - Local Authorities/Social Rented Sector Housing Providers

11. Awareness should be raised with the Regional Collaborative Committees and Supported People Programme of the work being undertaken in this area. Consider the implications of austerity and the demands on budgets, and the sustainability of services. - Department for Work and Pensions/Local Authorities/Landlords – Universal Support Delivered Locally

12. Continued engagement with Universal Support Delivered Locally programme to influence improvement in data sharing – particularly in Real-Time. Department for Work and Pensions/Local Authorities/Landlords –Universal Support Delivered Locally

13. Ensure, as part of the mapping exercise, there is adequate resource in both rural and urban areas offering financial support. - Department for Work and Pensions/Local Authorities/Landlords – Universal Support Delivered Locally

The Minister for for Communities and Tackling Poverty has stated that: “I will carefully consider Welsh Government action arising from recommendation 14. In relation to recommendation 15 , regarding tenants’ choice on payment of benefit, I had already written to Lord Freud ahead of completion of this report and am awaiting his reply. Welsh Government will continue to monitor all of these issues, take action where this falls within our remit, encourage stakeholders to assist tenants to cope with the changes and make further representations to the UK Government as required.”

The Report can be found at the following link:http://gov.wales/docs/desh/publications/150225-direct-payments-and-sustainable-tenancies-en.pdf