Saturday, 21 January 2017

Coalition releases results from survey carried out before pilots started

DWP slammed for withholding direct payment data

The Department for Work and Pensions has been criticised after revealing it will not tell landlords how well its universal credit pilots are working until next year.

Six pilot projects are running across the country to test the direct payment of benefit to tenants instead of to landlords. The projects, which run until next summer, feature housing associations and councils and test direct payment to around 12,000 tenants.

‘There would be little point in having these projects if we are not provided with the results of how these are working in practice.’

Keith Exford, Affinity Sutton

The DWP had indicated it would publish initial data this week. But instead of publishing information showing the progress of the projects, it released results from a baseline survey of 1,639 tenants, which was carried out before the projects started in June.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the DWP should publish early findings to help landlords judge what the impact is likely to be on their businesses. He said: ‘People are really desperate to learn what to do.’

Keith Exford, chief executive of Affinity Sutton, said: ‘There would be little point in having these projects if we are not provided with the results of how these are working in practice.’

Mr Exford said early evidence of how direct payment works in practice would help landlords that are concerned about how they will mitigate its impact. Landlords fear arrears will rise and they will have to spend more on administration.

The DWP has strongly discouraged social landlords on the pilots from mentioning the results, including levels of arrears and numbers of successful payments.

The DWP did release some details of lessons learned and said it had found that landlords ‘need to have a greater understanding of their tenants’.

Kevin Dodd, chief executive of pilot project landlord Wakefield and District Housing, said: ‘We would find out a lot more, cheaper and quicker, if data could be transferred more easily between statutory agencies and housing providers.’

A DWP spokesperson said the department wants to ensure information is ‘robust’ before publishing.

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