Following a consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) around the sharing of universal credit claimant information with housing providers, Allpay has commented on some of the findings from the earlier universal credit pilot projects.
Ross Macmillan, market intelligence consultant, Allpay, said, “By enabling the DWP to share up-to-date information on who has applied for, or is in receipt of, universal credit, housing providers can channel resources better towards supporting tenants. The findings from the government’s Direct Payment Demonstration Projects during 2012/13 demonstrated that where the direct payment of housing benefit had been implemented, housing providers saw that the contact that they had with tenants rose considerably as a direct result of the additional support that was needed.”
The pilot project also showed that tenants often lacked an understanding of the different financial products. Macmillan said, “The projects highlighted a lack of awareness and understanding of financial products among tenants, due to a high proportion of them preferring to budget and pay bills with cash. We often assume a ubiquitous understanding of banking products and services, such as the difference between a direct debit and a debit card, but that isn’t always the case among lower socio-economic groups.
“Supporting the programme with increased payment choice is vital, and part of that is about housing providers making their existing payment channels as clear, simple and attractive to their tenants as possible. While the pilot projects showed that direct debit will not necessarily suit everybody’s circumstances, they did show that where flexibility is offered in terms of frequency, collection date and ease of set up, more tenants are willing to sign up and manage future payments.
“Direct debit collection dates can be set up soon after tenants receive their universal credit, thus giving the tenant confidence that they have enough in their account to cover their rent. The sharing of universal credit claimant data will aid this process, reduce the risk of arrears for housing providers and mitigate the risk of residents incurring unpaid transaction charges.”