8 Apr 2013

Direct payment live discussion

GreenSquare's Executive Director (Customers and Communities), Ann Cornelius has spent two hours in a live discusion on the Guardian's Web site about the Government's direct payment demonstration pilots.

In the pilots, housing benefit is paid directly to tenants instead of landlords. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insists that direct payments will simplify the welfare system and help tenants receiving benefit payments to take greater responsibility over their finances and help them into work. Some housing providers are concerned the change will lead to an unsustainable increase in tenants falling into arrears.

Since June 2012 the Government has set up six pilots schemes in different areas of the country to test the impact of direct payment on tenants and housing providers. The pilots involved 6,220 tenants and each tested a different approach to tenant support, exemptions, rent collection methods and switchback triggers – which would see payment revert back to the landlords after arrears reached a predetermined point.

The live discussion looked at what lessons could be learned from the direct payment pilots? What safeguards and switchbacks have proved most effective? And how could arrears be minimised as much as possible?

Along with Ann, the panel taking part today (8 April) between 12-2pm included Duncan Forbes, chief executive at Bron Afon Community Housing, Rachel Willoughby, changing places manager at Wakefield and District Housing, Steve Rawson, executive director of operations and deputy chief executive at Wakefield and District Housing, Paul Wilding, benefits managers at Oxford city council, Mark Thompson, general manager at The Wrekin Housing Trust, and Steph Jackson, head of customer care and support services at Shropshire county council.

The full discussion can be found on the Guardian Housing Network page here.