NHC Releases Budget 2017 On-the-Day Briefing

With the recent publication of the Housing White Paper, the Budget was slim on changes to housing policy. That said, Phillip Hammond’s first – and last – Spring Budget contained significant new commitments including £2bn for social care over the next three years, changes in National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed, and new initiatives on education and skills.

Read the NHC’s full on-the-day briefing here.

The Chancellor’s announcement that Government will press ahead with recommendations made by Lord Sainsbury on T Levels represents a huge change in government policy on education and skills. This, combined with the Government’s drive to increase apprenticeships, represents a new and growing focus.

One of the biggest takeaways from the Budget is that the Government are prioritising White and Green Papers on issues including social care, consumer rights and tax simplification. This would suggest a blockbuster Autumn Budget 2017 for which, naturally, the NHC will be preparing an on-the-day briefing.

NHC Publishes Third Universal Credit Impact Report

Today sees the release of the Northern Housing Consortium’s Impact of Universal Credit Round 3 report. This is the third in a series of four reports and builds upon the results of the first two, covering the period March-July (all three of which can be accessed from the NHC’s website here). The research investigates how the implementation and continuing rollout of Universal Credit is affecting housing organisations in the north.

We are now able to collect trend data and comparisons are made in this latest report with the findings of the previous reports. The latest report also draws comparisons between the full survey results with the returned data from North West respondents to ascertain whether having worked with the Universal Credit system longer has an effect on respondents’ experiences of the system. Some of the key findings from the Round 3 report are:

  • More than one-fifth of respondents said that tenants had terminated their own tenancy as a direct as a direct result of UC.
  • Almost all of the responding organisations are having to step in and assist tenants with the cost of living.
  • Half of organisations have introduced credit reference checks to prospective tenants as a result of UC implementation – double the figure in Round 2.
  • There is a move to debiting tenants’ rent accounts in arrears as 90.6% of those that debit accounts in advance have experienced problems.

We continue to use findings from the research to engage with the Department of Work and Pensions officials through NHC’s roundtable programme to raise members’ concerns and experiences of procedural issues and we will work with DWP to make the new system as smooth as possible.

The final round of the survey will be announced in the NHC eZine but there is also a dedicated contact list for anyone interested in taking part in the project. To ensure you are able to participate, please contact Business Intelligence Officer Barry Turnbull at barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk.

PRESS RELEASE: NHC Releases On-the-Day Housing White Paper Briefing

The 2017 Housing White Paper

Today saw the publication of the long awaited, much trailed Housing White Paper.  Announced by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State as

ambitious proposals to help fix the housing market so that more ordinary working people from across the country can have the security of a decent place to live

Read the NHC’s full on-the-day White Paper briefing here.

The White Paper acknowledges the scale of the housing crisis facing the country and recognises the fact that governments of all persuasions have not been able to sufficiently ramp up house building to meet with the backlog of under supply and projected future need. The Government’s White Paper aims to change this but the discussions in advance were focused on whether the proposals set out today are the catalyst needed or is the housing industry the proverbial slow turning oil tanker?

The White Paper sets out a series of recommendations addressing common approaches to planning for housing need, barriers in the planning process, support for Local Authorities in speeding up delivery of new homes, and the need to bring new entrants to the market place. Underneath the headlines there is a significant amount of detailed policy proposals that the Northern Housing Consortium welcomes.

The White Paper also rebalances policy focus away from home ownership and acknowledges the need to ensure the rental market is operating efficiently providing good quality secure accommodation for those who choose to rent.

The NHC is pleased that we have this Housing White Paper. It is a mature acknowledgement of the benefits that a shared approach to policy development can bring. We will work with the Government and our members to support this White Paper and work collaboratively to help refine and improve where we believe policy initiatives need further consideration.

The NHC has worked with members and sector experts to deliver the Commission for Housing in the North and we are pleased that the White Paper reinforces messages from the Commission such as consideration of wider tenure issues, the need to ensure quality across the rental sector, and capacity support for local authorities to ensure the right housing is delivered in the right place. The White Paper is not unsurprisingly light on issues around regeneration but we call upon the Government to ensure the Northern Powerhouse Strategy – released alongside the Autumn Statement – picks up this mantle to ensure that housing and regeneration are recognised as tools to support the economic renaissance of the North.

The NHC looks forward to working with members and government on our detailed response to the White Paper and more details on our forthcoming member engagement roundtables are available on our website www.northern-consortium.org.uk

 

For further information please contact Member Engagement Manager, Callum Smith, on 0191 566 1029 or email callum.smith@northern-consortium.org.uk

NHC supports DCLG announcement – Government will not proceed with compulsory income based rents (”pay to stay”)

Since the Housing and Planning Bill came into being the NHC has sought to work constructively with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to ensure it fully understood the issues that could arise from the “pay to stay” policy. The civil servants we engaged with were always keen to hear the views of NHC members and we thank them for the time they gave us.

We are pleased that CLG officials and Ministers have taken the views of our members on board in reaching this decision not to proceed with the policy as originally intended. The NHC remains committed to working with our members and relevant government departments to provide constructive feedback on policy impacts and have secured policy change on the back of this engagement. Our members value these opportunities with civil servants and we will continue to work collaboratively across our membership to ensure the concerns and ambitions of housing in the North are recognised and supported.

To read the full announcement from DCLG, please click here.

The NHC Releases Second Universal Credit Impact Report

The Northern Housing Consortium has today released its ‘Impact of Universal Credit, Round 2’ report. The second in a series of four (read here), this report builds on the results of the first report published in July (read here). The research investigates how the implementation and continuing rollout of Universal Credit is affecting housing organisations in the north.

This new update collects trend data and draws comparisons between the full survey results with the returned data from North West housing provider respondents to ascertain whether working with the Universal Credit (UC) system for a longer time affects respondents’ experiences of the system. Some of the key findings from the Round 2 report are:

  • More than a third of the respondents said that tenants had terminated their own tenancy as a direct result of UC
  • Almost all organisations that debit tenants’ rent account in advance found UC payment in arrears caused them difficulties
  • 5% of organisations have introduced credit reference checks to prospective tenants as a result of UC implementation
  • 9% of respondents have experienced delays in processing UC claims

The NHC will continue to use its findings to engage with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officials through the NHC’s roundtable programme to raise members’ concerns and experiences. The NHC will work with DWP to make the new system as smooth as possible for tenants, housing providers and DWP alike.

Future rounds of the survey will be announced in the NHC eZine but there is also a dedicated contact list for anyone interested in taking part in the project. To ensure you are able to participate in future rounds, please contact Barry Turnbull, Policy Services Officer at barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk.

DWP meets NHC members to discuss Universal Credit issues

Last month the NHC facilitated a roundtable in Leeds for NHC members and the Department for Work and Pensions representatives from the Universal Credit Programme Team. Among the DWP delegates were Andrew Clarke, Delivery Partners & External Engagement, Universal Credit Programme and Elaine Baker, Universal Credit Programme (Strategy).

The session provided members the opportunity to share their organisations’ and claimants’ experiences since the implementation and roll out of Universal Credit across the North, with the DWP Universal Credit team. The session also gave the NHC and DWP the chance to work together to iron out some issues and make the whole process clear and simple from a claimant’s perspective.

The topics and issues discussed are outlined below, including an update on how DWP is addressing some of the issues.

DWP Context:

  • Strategic Landlord Group was established around 2 years ago, to ensure landlords across the country are listened to. If anyone would like to be part of this group please ask your local Partnership Manager for further details.
  • A new Q&A bank for partnership managers have been set up. All queries that are fed through to the subject matter expert are shared wider through this bank so all Partnership Managers have access to the same information, to encourage consistency across all the managers. All questions should be raised via this bank. The answer bank is an internal DWP product. If landlords wish to raise a question they should raise it through their partnership manager – details of which can be found in the landlord support pack.
  • If anyone is having any issues with either lack of engagement or support with your Local Partnership Manager, please get in touch with Andrew Clarke, Delivery Partners & External Engagement, Universal Credit Programme andrew.clarke1@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
  • Local Partnership Managers are the first point of contact for all across the housing sector, and escalate any issues through a single point of contact.
  • UC is a huge culture shift across DWP who appreciate there are issues. DWP are working hard to address these and put various approaches in place to ensure the process and rollout is more simple and effective.
  • There is an Action Plan in development across DWP around issues relating to housing as it is recognised that there are a number of concerns and issues. DWP will keep NHC updated.
  • DWP encourages the sector to supply evidence of the issues experienced, rather than anecdotal evidence. At a local level this would be through your partnership managers. Strategy-related issues can be reported through the NHC who will then inform the DWP Social Rented Sector strategic group.


Issues reported by NHC Members:

  • Notifications
  • In some cases there is no tenancy reference or NOI to refer to and in other cases they do not correspond to any on the systems.
  • Landlords are unable to support the tenants appropriately, as the landlord is not aware that they are on UC.
  • Some members across the North West indicated that notifications are starting to come through. It is not clear if this is because the North West has had UC for longer as they were part of the pilot but the general feeling is one of ‘if it can work there, why not everywhere else?’
  • Various inconsistencies.

Update: New claim email notifications

Landlords should now be receiving emails notifying them that a claim has been made where an email address has been provided. The NHC understands that receipt of these notifications is still patchy and DWP are aware of this, stating that as it’s a new system it will take some time.

If your organisation has not yet provided an email address, you will still receive notifications by letter – please see the implementation note from the DWP if you want to set up an email address for notifications.

The DWP introduced a new rent verification process from 3rd October. If the claimant comes into the JobCentre and provides the correct information, a new claim notification is sent out as usual. If not, the DWP sends out a rent verification form. The form includes the same information as the new claim notification and asks for rent verification, acting as a notification that a claim has been made. It can be sent back to the DWP via secure CJSM email system. There have been some issues reported suggesting the CJSM system struggles, given the number of emails now being sent through it. These issues have been reported to  DWP.


Alternative Payment Arrangements

  • Where this works, it works very well, but where it doesn’t there are huge concerns.
  • APAs are not necessarily the first port of call for landlords as they are mainly used for those unemployed (administration can be extremely problematic for those on zero hours or variable hour contracts, as income changes weekly). Some landlords are intensifying their support levels in these cases.
  • NHC Members would like to use the learning from the Trusted Pilots to address some of the issues with APAs.
  • There are multiple versions of form UC 47 in use.
  • Delays – There is a DWP action plan focusing on this as well as on building capacity and resources in service centres.
  • Various inconsistencies.

Update: A change was made in June 2016 to APAs in full service only. They are now being paid by the Third Party Deduction (TPD) payment system, which may create issues with timeliness (the TPD system pays out monthly, whereas APAs were previously paid on the anniversary of the claim for each individual claim). DWP is looking into any further changes they can make to solve the issue but this was brought in with no consultation. Landlords in the full service who do not currently receive electronic schedules for their TPDs can apply to do so.

The DWP has provided an information pack about the electronic schedule:

 

Work Coaches

  • Questions were raised around what their role is and what they can and cannot do.
  • DWP is reviewing the relationship of Work Coaches and claimants and recognises that at times the landlords are better placed to pick up some of the support. This will be picked up through the Trusted Partner Pilots.
  • No APA form available for work coaches. A solution is in progress as part of the working group set up for the UC 47 process.
  • Various inconsistencies.

Claimant Consent/Disclosure

  • There is an issue around what can be shared or not shared with a landlord.
  • There are inconsistences depending on which service centre you speak to and which advisor.

Update: DWP has produced a guide for landlords, Universal Credit: Housing costs and disclosure, which provides some detail about the disclosure process. DWP is looking at ways to improve responses to queries and are piloting a specific number for associations and Local Authority landlords to use with queries. The NHC will receive feedback on this in due course. There is no equivalent to the housing team in full service, which the DWP is aware is an issue for associations operating in the full service.

The internal guide for Partnership Managers to use with their local landlords will also be available.

Update: Trusted Status

All landlords will be able to apply for trusted status in due course. This will allow landlords to nominate on trust those claimants who will need additional support in the form of APAs. DWP will then process the APAs generally quicker and without questions.

The current pilot areas have been expanded for another six months. Lord Freud is keen to see trusted status widened out quickly so DWP are in the process of developing appropriate plans.

Update: Universal Support Delivered Locally

DWP has released an evaluation of Universal Support Delivered Locally – the framework for the delivery of local support to Universal Credit claimants that may require transitional support, in particular due to digital and personal budgeting support needs. 

The focus of the Universal Support trials was on helping vulnerable residents adjust to new aspects of the way UC is designed, including monthly budgeting or making and managing their claim through online self-service. The trials also explored different models of partnership working between Local Authorities, JobCentre Plus and organisations that can provide forms of transitional support.

Currently, this is done directly by Local Authorities or subcontracted by them, with funding from DWP, under the Personal Budgeting Support banner.

Four key stages of how support is designed:

  • Identification/engagement of participants;
  • Triage/assessment;
  • Referral and case management of support;
  • How support was delivered;
  • Different approaches can be appropriate in different areas such as integration, co-location, dispersal of functions and different partnership management approaches.

Another important driver of the success of a trial was the speed and strength of how quickly relationships between different local partners were developed on the ground. The evaluation identified other elements as important to the successful delivery of the Universal Support element of Universal Credit:

  1. Clear and common success measures;
  2. Right governance, partnerships and management to oversee these locally;
  3. Claimants can be identified, engaged and screened through different channels;
  4. Co-location and integration are further explored and the benefits (where evident) are harnessed;
  5. The right systems and process are in place to enable effective local delivery of support – in particular around data sharing, local service mapping and case management.

The full evaluation can be found here.

Next Steps:

  • The NHC will continually engage with the DWP UC team and report back any issues and concerns for NHC members and facilitate a follow-up session in 2017 to assess further how the implementation of UC is working and whether issues have been resolved.
  • If anyone is experiencing issues with either lack of engagement or support with your Local Partnership Manager, please get in touch with Andrew Clarke, Delivery Partners & External Engagement, Universal Credit Programme andrew.clarke1@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
  • Local Partnership Managers is the first point of contact for all across the housing sector, and can escalate any issues through a single point of contact. Any feedback raised via the Partnership Managers are reviewed and considered by the service build team in the UC Programme. For the full service in particular the UC team are keen that issues, particularly around build or process design, are captured using this route so that they can build a service that fully meets user needs.
  • The NHC is currently undergoing research looking at the Impact of Universal Credit, to better understand the issues faced by our Members and their tenants. Further information and how NHC members can get involved can be found here.

For further information please contact Satty Rai, Policy Services Manager, satty.rai@northern-consortium.org.uk

Regional Employment Rates

In mid-September Office of National Statistics (ONS) published estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK. It shows that nationally, between February to April 2016 and May to July 2016, the number of people in work increased. The number of unemployed people and the number of people not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) fell. There were 31.77 million people in work, 559,000 more than for a year earlier. The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.5%.

In the North, there were 7.12 million people in employment, 147,000 more than twelve months previous. Almost half (48%) of all employed people in the North were in the North West giving the region a 73% employment rate.

Table 1 shows the latest estimates for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for May to July 2016 and a comparison with the previous quarter (February to April 2016).

Table 1: Employment Activity May to July 2016

Employment rate (%) aged 16 to 64 Change on May to July 2015 Unemployment rate (%) aged 16 and over Change on May to July 2015 Inactivity rate (%) aged 16 to 64 Change on May to July 2015
North East 70.9 2.9 7.5 -1.1 23.2 -2.3
North West 73.0 1.5 5.1 -0.4 23.0 -1.2
Yorkshire and the Humber 72.4 1.0 5.9 -0.4 23.0 -0.7
East Midlands 75.6 0.7 4.3 -0.4 21.0 -0.3
West Midlands 71.9 1.1 6.2 0.5 23.2 -1.6
East 78.1 1.0 3.2 -1.4 19.2 0.1
London 73.4 1.1 6.1 -0.3 21.8 -0.9
South East 78.3 1.6 3.5 -0.9 18.8 -0.9
South West 77.3 -1.2 4.2 0.1 19.1 1.1
England 74.8 1.0 4.9 -0.5 21.2 -0.7
Wales 73.2 1.9 4.1 -2.3 23.6 -0.1
Scotland 74.1 0.0 4.7 -1.2 22.1 0.9
Great Britain 74.7 1.0 4.9 -0.6 21.4 -0.5
Northern Ireland 69.4 1.7 5.6 -0.7 26.4 -1.3
UK 74.5 1.0 4.9 -0.6 21.5 -0.6

The above table shows that the unemployment rate estimates are generally showing small changes for each of the regions of the UK. The North East saw the greatest reduction in unemployment of the three northern regions (-1.1%) compared to the same period in 2015, whereas both the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber saw a 0.4% reduction.

Notwithstanding this, for the 12 months ending July 2016, the highest unemployment rate in the UK was in the North East (7.5%) compared with 5.1% in the North West and 5.9% in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Map 1 shows the percentage of the population of each northern local authority that are in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance. The four districts with the highest proportions are in the North East with Middlesbrough (3.7%), South Tyneside (3.4%), Redcar and Cleveland (3.2%) and Hartlepool (3.2%) having a higher proportion that Kingston upon Hull (3.1%). Indeed, all of the Tees Valley authorities have amongst the higher proportions of JSA claimants.

Map 1: Jobseeker’s Allowance by unitary and local authority

map

Contact: Barry Turnbull

Email: barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk

Will you be Bidding for the Housing & Technology for People with Learning Disabilities Local Authority Capital Fund?

The Department of Health is inviting local authorities working with their local partners, to apply for funds from a capital fund of up to £25m for housing and technology options for people with learning disabilities. The fund will enable more people to live as independently as possible with the best care and support, greatly improving their quality of life.

The full guidance can be found here.

The NHC would like to hear from any of our Local Authority members across the North if you will be applying for the capital fund. Please contact satty.rai@northern-consortium.org.uk

Government Announces LHA Cap Freeze

The Government has announced an exemption from the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap for those tenants living in hostels and supported housing but is proceeding with the 1% rent cut.  In a written statement to Parliament, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, said that he would defer the imposition of the LHA cap on supported housing until 2019-20 after which a new system would keep funding at current levels.

The announcement follows deep concern from the housing sector, charities and third sector organisations who warned that if the cap were to apply to those living in hostels and supported housing, it would see the schemes providing support to these vulnerable groups become financially nonviable and at risk of closure.  One of the chief concerns raised by those organisations working with the homeless and the mentally ill was that the LHA cap would mean widespread closure of many hostels and shelters which could force thousands of people on to the streets.

The NHC’s own research and member engagement on this matter has found that many registered providers in the North froze development of new supported schemes after the announcement of the cap last year with nearly all plans for future schemes left in doubt. The Ministerial Statement on LHA Cap freeze outlines the broad structure of a replacement model which would see Local Authorities receive funding to ‘top up’ LHA – however, many questions remain. Whilst the LA fund is ‘ring fenced’ it is not clear how long this ring fence will last – or indeed how porous it turns out to be. Equally, the impact on sheltered schemes is not yet clear. The government will shortly issue a consultation paper and the NHC will respond to this.  For more information on LHA issues please contact Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Callum Smith at callum.smith@northern-consortium.org.uk

Lower Quartile Affordability Ratios find North East most Affordable Region

In mid-July, the Government published affordability ratios by every local authority in the country up to 2015. The affordability ratios are calculated using ONS House Prices Statistics (based on Land Registry data) and earnings from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. The earnings relate to the respondents’ place of work rather than place of residence. This means that affordability in commuter areas reflects the earning power of commuters. Ratios were published by lower quartile and median house prices and earnings. This article will explore lower quartile affordability ratios for local authorities in the North.

Since the introduction of the data in 1997, there has been a steady upward trend in the English lower quartile affordability ratio, rising by 3.45 point to 7.02 in 2015 (national and local authority level figures have been revised for 2013 to include revisions made to earnings and house price data) as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1: LQ house price to LQ earnings (England)

affordability-chart

At the end of 2015, the average lower quartile affordability ratio for the whole of the North stood at 5.58; the most affordable region was the North East where there was a lower quartile affordability ratio of 4.87, followed by the North West (5.50), while Yorkshire and the Humber was least affordable with a ratio of 6.37.

It is no surprise, then that the most affordable sub-regions are in the North East. In Durham (3.63) and the Tees Valley (4.61) the North East has the two most affordable places in the North to buy a home. There are also affordable areas in South Yorkshire (5.00) and Merseyside (5.09).

The three most expensive sub-regions are dotted across the three northern regions. Residents of North Yorkshire (8.41), Cheshire (6.15) and Northumberland (5.98) require a larger slice of their income to be able to buy a home.

As Map 1 below shows, there are areas across the north with more affordable local authority areas – those with ratios of 4.5 or below but there is, along with Trafford, one large swathe of less affordable local authorities with ratios of over 8, stretching from southern Cumbria into North Yorkshire. The least affordable local authority in the north is Harrogate with a lower quartile ratio of 10.04, while South Lakeland (9.14) also has a ratio well above the northern average.

Map 1: Ratio of lower quartile house price to lower quartile earnings by Local Authority, 2015

affordability-map1

The current picture in the north is a result of year-on-year increases since the revisions in 2013. In those two years there was a 0.26 point increase on average across the three regions. Both the North West (0.31) and Yorkshire and the Humber (0.36) saw increases higher than the northern average while in the North East the increase was significantly lower than the average (0.12).

Indeed, both Durham (-0.13) and Tees Valley (-0.06) in the North East were the only sub-regions were there was a fall in affordability ratios and housing became more affordable. Conversely, Cumbria (0.61), North Yorkshire (0.54) and Northumberland (0.53) saw the greatest increases in affordability ratios.

Map 2 shows the change in affordability ratios by local authority. It shows, as in Map 1, south Cumbria features prominently. However, unlike Map 1, the authorities where affordability ratios have grown the most are pepper potted across the north. Again places like Eden and Harrogate feature with increases of 1.80 and 1.01 since 2013 respectively but also Barrow-in-Furness (1.07) and Scarborough (0.96) have seen significant increases over this period.

Map 2: Change in ratio of lower quartile house price to lower quartile earnings by Local Authority, 2013-2015

affordability-map2

By interrogating the source data for the affordability ratios, an explanation for the differing changes in the ratios may be gained. The relatively small change in the affordability ratio in the North East can be explained by both lower quartile house prices (6.2%) and lower quartile annual income (6.3%) increasing at a very similar level between the two years. In comparison, lower quartile house prices in both the North West (7.3%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (7.7%) increased significantly quicker than lower quartile earnings in these regions (2.9% and 2.5% respectively).

However, reasons for increasing affordability ratios may alter between geographies. Amongst the local authorities that are noticeable for the increase in their ratio include Barrow-in-Furness. Here, lower quartile earnings grew by 1.4% compared to an increase in lower quartile house prices of 8.7%. Elsewhere, while the 0.53 point increase in Northumberland can be partly explained by a 10.8% increase in house prices, this in coupled with a 4.3% fall in lower quartile earnings.

Contact: Barry Turnbull

barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk