L&Q teams up with National Housing Federation for resident survey on Universal Credit during pandemic
L&Q has teamed up with the National Housing Federation and seven other housing associations to look at the experience of residents claiming Universal Credit during the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey, which 699 L&Q residents took part in, also looked at the impact of rent arrears notices on Universal Credit claimants.
Across all housing providers who took part in the survey, the number of social housing tenants claiming the housing element of Universal Credit grew by 46% from March 2020 to February 2021.
As a result of the survey, which was carried out in Spring 2021, housing associations are being encouraged to advertise welfare services they offer and continue taking supportive approaches to income collection.
The survey found many positives about the Universal Credit system and service received, but overall, there was a very mixed experience.
Nearly half (43%) of the respondents have struggled to afford food while claiming Universal Credit during the pandemic.
As well as reporting difficulties meeting basic living costs, 84% of respondents also said they had borrowed money from friends and family, applied for loans or visited food banks while claiming the benefit.
The NHF are now urging the Government not to end the £20 boost, put in place during the pandemic, which is set to be removed in October.
The survey also looked at why residents delay claiming Universal Credit, how waiting for the first payment affected them, and the impact of bad press on its perception.
Respondents also gave an insight into how timely and effective support can make a difference during the assessment period.
It was found that although many reported benefiting from the services L&Q offer, other residents said they were unaware of this support. As a result, L&Q has committed to being more proactive about signposting residents to the support services.
During the pandemic, L&Q has been actively contacting all tenants who are new Universal Credit claimants to provide advice and support.
Staff have also been providing vulnerable tenants with intensive one-to-one support through its tenancy sustainment programme – enabling residents to successfully manage their claims online.
In addition to this, L&Q residents have been offered affordable payment plans where necessary and, where they would prefer, rent payments can be made directly from their Universal Credit payment.
L&Q’s partner service, Pound Advice, has continued to offer residents support, including with budgeting, debt management, and how to maximise their income through claiming the benefits they are entitled to.
Last year, Pound Advice staff saw 3265 residents, and helped residents achieve a total financial gain of £14,884,170.51.
One resident who took part in the survey said: “I think L&Q were brilliant from the beginning with sending me all my rent and service charge information, getting me in touch with Pound Advice, and by dealing with my rent arrears with kindness so I wasn’t too overwhelmed.
“I’m able to communicate with them during my good and bad times. An extra plus is that I’m now on the website for my rent and payments which is better for me than the balance texts. I feel that I’ve finally reached a manageable point which in turn will give me better mental health and an ability to deal with all my bills.”
Following the survey response, L&Q has supported the National Housing Federation’s recommendations to government. Read the full report.