Tenants ‘lack knowledge’ over benefits changes

More than four out of ten social housing tenants know very little or nothing about the coalition government's controversial 'bedroom tax' policy or how it will affect them, according to a survey carried out for Viridian housing association in London and the south east.

Ipsos MORI conducted a survey of 201 residents (including 101 identified as being affected by the bedroom tax), together with 15 single/paired in-depth interviews with residents affected by the policy. Research was undertaken in April and May 2013, a month after the tax was introduced. The survey explored tenants' experiences, attitudes and behaviour in respect of the bedroom tax and other reforms to the benefits system.

Key findings

  • Most Viridian tenants knew at least something about the reforms to housing benefit. Six in ten, 59 per cent, said they knew a great deal or a fair amount. But four in ten, 41 per cent, said they knew not very much or nothing at all: one in eight, 13 per cent, fell into the 'nothing at all' category.
  • Tenants who had only received a letter from the local authority about the changes tended to be unaware of when they would come into force, and most tended to be unaware of the precise financial implications for their household.
  • Seven in ten of those affected by the bedroom tax strongly agreed that 'rent is the one weekly or monthly bill which I try to ensure is paid off before others'. Those tenants who did not understand exactly how the changes affected them, and felt they were not good at budgeting, were more likely to be in a position where they might default on rent payments.
  • Most tenants in the qualitative interviews were aware of the forthcoming changes in universal credit, but only dimly. Even those who knew about the changes tended to be unable to explain how they would work in practice in any detail, other than citing the change to direct payments and the single monthly payment; they also did not know when the changes would come in.
  • The single monthly payment was the primary cause for concern for most of those interviewed. Tenants were aware of the potential difficulties the transition to this type of payment might entail. They were also aware, to some extent, of their own inexperience in handling similar budgeting situations. They also tended to be more concerned about how they would adjust to this change than they were in regard to the bedroom tax. There was also concern about how ‘vulnerable’ groups would manage under the new system.
  • Fewer than two-thirds (64 per cent) of tenants affected by the bedroom tax had internet access, at home or at work. Among those who did have internet access, only two in five (42 per cent) said they would be comfortable making a benefit claim online.

SourceUnderstanding the Opportunities and Challenges Presented by Welfare Reform: Final Report, Ipsos MORI
LinksReport | Viridian press release

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