- Published: November 29, 2018
This report was commissioned by the London Borough of Southwark. Its purpose is to examine the impacts that Universal Credit (UC) has had on the rent payment behaviours of the borough’s own social housing or ‘council’ tenants.
To meet this objective the report scrutinises and compares the experiences of two groups of tenants that have transitioned onto UC at different times: the first doing so between August-October 2016 and the second between August-October 2017.
The analysis in this report follows on from the Smith Institute’s previous UC impact study for Southwark Council, ‘Safe as Houses: the impact of Universal Credit on tenants and their rent payment behaviour in the London boroughs of Southwark and Croydon, and Peabody’ (October 2017).
The previous study, which involved other social landlords whose tenants were affected by the early experience of UC full service rollout, examined the impact of UC roll-out on rent payments among those claiming the new benefit compared with those on Housing Benefit (HB).
This latest study draws on that research and seeks also to understand the longer-term impact of UC on rent payment behaviour. The report also addresses whether the rent payment behaviour of the new cohort (the 2017 group), who started claiming UC after the system had more time to bed in, was different, and, if so, in what way?
The analysis is exclusively focused on tenant’s rent accounts. It does not examine the human cost and personal impacts of UC, which were explored in the previous the report. Nor does the analysis provide details on the externality costs either to tenants (such as increased levels of personal debt to cover rent when waiting for UC payments) or to the landlord (increased cost and workloads of officers supporting tenants). The analysis reflects the experience of those who are known to have made an effective claim for UC either between August and October 2016 or August and October 2017. The Council has no way of knowing whether any of those who claimed UC continued to do so, or for what period. What the Council does know is that all those whose rent accounts were analysed for purposes of the research had “migrated” to UC and the new arrangements for meeting housing cost support for those of working age reliant on the benefit system to help pay their rent that were an integral feature of UC.
These findings do not take account of a number of significant changes to UC policy announced in Budget 2017 and that were fully implemented from April 2018 – for example the abolition of the seven day waiting period and the introduction of a two week housing benefit run-on. The impacts of those changes will be considered as part of a planned, third wave of Safe As Houses research, results of which are expected to be available in spring 2019.