This week’s #Futures50 comes from Rebecca Lumley-Gower from Carmarthenshire County Council.
As a tenancy support officer, one of my main roles is to ensure that the rent is paid in full and on time. Since the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in Carmarthenshire in December 2018, this has meant waiting for the 4-weekly schedule from the DWP.
Initially there was a panic to make sure that all new UC claimants were assessed and anyone deemed vulnerable, request an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). This is an arrangement which ensures rent is paid.
Since December I have played the waiting game every four weeks for the schedule to arrive from the DWP. For on this day of the month, a big chunk of my arrears disappears like magic.
But, why does it take so long for our vulnerable tenants’ money to reach their rent accounts? Why do tenants see their money being taken on a certain day of the month and have to wait, sometimes
up to six weeks, for this money to pay their rent?
Upon receiving their quarterly rent statements tenants have been in touch to find out why they owe six weeks (sometimes more) rent, when in reality their rent payment is in limbo between DWP and the council.
Another issue is the fact that tenants are paid monthly, yet the DWP only send the payments through every four weeks. In January 2019 a spokesperson for the DWP told Inside Housing that: “We have heard the concerns of social landlords and have moved social landlord payments to a
monthly cycle in 2019 as a result.”
Yet still in November of 2019, we are still receiving payments every four weeks.
So what can be done to reduce the delay in receiving payment and reduce the stress and confusion for tenants when they see their rent balance increase? Should more have been done to keep tenants off APAs and work with them to manage their money?
In some circumstances probably. However, in some circumstances APAs are unavoidable, e.g. where tenants are
drug/alcohol dependent. More needs to be done to get the money from DWP to social
landlords quicker. In a world where you can tap your card on a till to pay for a pint of milk and for the 84p to be deducted from your bank account immediately, it is unreasonable that tenants are having to wait in excess of four weeks for their rent to be paid by the DWP.
Carmarthenshire County Council