Posted by: Carl Brown05/10/2012
The motto of the scout movement is apt for the social housing sector as the spectre of welfare reform comes ever closer.
Despite the bedroom tax and the total benefits cap being less than six months away, some landlords have still not worked out which of their tenants will be affected, let alone decided what measures to put in place. As one senior housing figure said this week, it is as though some landlords are ‘politically naive’ and think the government will simply backtrack if problems arise. This is unlikely.
The lack of preparedness is also concerning Julian Ashby. The Homes and Communities Agency regulation chair used a large chunk of a speech last month to express his surprise that some landlords do not appear to have grasped the potential impact of the reforms.
The news this week that some councils are reluctant to share benefit information with landlords because of misplaced data protection act fears is likely to dismay the regulator further. A small number of authorities seem to believe they have to get claimants’ permission before sharing their data. Sector experts and lawyers have pointed to government guidance stating this is not the case.
It is in everyone’s interest to share the data as soon as possible and I can only believe that some councils are not doing so through a misunderstanding of the situation, rather than as a policy position.
In addition to data protection worries, some councils are waiting for new computer software before sharing data. This will enable them to match benefit data with information about property sizes more quickly and with fewer resources. This is understandable, particularly as local authorities budgets are being squeezed, but again this is frustrating for housing associations.
Any issues causing delays to welfare reform preparation need to be resolved as soon as possible as a priority. If they are not, both tenants and landlords will suffer come next April.
From Housing matters
Carl Brown looks at regulation, training, board members, pay and a host of other issues that impact the day to day running of social landlords