(Update from and a Report of the Assistant Director – Neighbourhoods)
The Committee received an update from the Housing Team from the Assistant Director – Neighbourhoods.
The Chair introduced the Portfolio Holder for Housing Services and Neighbourhoods, Assistant Director – Neighbourhoods and the Tenant Regulation and Involvement Manager.
The Assistant Director provided an overview of the Report which included details on the following:
· Managing the migration of Universal Credit;
· On average there was a 10 week wait for Universal Credit to be paid;
· Core rent arrears were going down in Tamworth, as a result of robust management;
· Tamworth was in top quartile in terms of income collection and position in terms of prevention;
· Taking Universal Credit debt out of the equation would have meant that the Council’s core arrears would have decreased;
· That Tamworth was one of the first local authorities to get independent accreditation for procedures for management of debt;
· the welfare reform preparations and Universal Credit will be one of the Councils core corporate projects;
· introduced a rent income analytics tool to intelligently assess arrears and identify anomalies;
· the Council had been nominated as a trusted partner with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which allowed conversations to be held with the DWP, provided explicit consent from residents had been provided;
Councillor Price joined the meeting.
The Committee thanked the Housing team and all front line staff for their work and the quality of advice provided to residents.
Committee Members sought and received clarification in the following areas:
· the careful application to rent arrears of the homelessness support funding in line with the detailed protocol to support homelessness prevention;
· the work that staff undertook with the DWP to ensure that joint tenants received the appropriate amount of Universal Credit and to mitigate any discouragement of joint tenancy arrangements;
· the accessibility of the Council’s Benefits webpages and the format and content of documents on it, as well as the ability for residents to access support from the housing team in a variety of ways;
· challenges which had been encountered with the DWP and how the trusted partner status had assisted as the relationship with the DWP regional lead had developed, albeit that at times there remained issues with explicit consent and ensuring that the consent language from residents was as clear and detailed as possible;
· the trigger for a move onto Universal Credit which remained a change in a resident’s circumstances which would lead to a full assessment;
Councillor C Cooke joined the meeting.
The Committee agreed that following consideration of the update provided, a recommendation should be made to Cabinet to raise certain matters which had been identified from the update received, with the Department for Work and Pensions.
RESOLVED that a recommendation be made to Cabinet that a letter be issued in the name of Tamworth Borough Council to the Department of Work and Pensions setting out the following issues which had been identified:
· access to the Department of Work and Pension, via telephone, appeared at times to be rationed, and that steps be taken to ensure that, in the light of the Trusted Partner status which Tamworth Borough Council had, there be no rationing of access to the Department of Work and Pensions;
· that GDPR was potentially creating barriers to the processing of claims for Universal Credit and that steps be taken to ensure that GDPR was not restricting access nor slowing down the process of a claim for Universal Credit.
(Moved by Councillor Dr S Peaple and seconded by Councillor M Summers)
The Committee thanked the Portfolio Holder for Housing Services and Neighbourhoods, the Assistant Director, Neighbourhoods and the Tenant Regulation and Involvement Manager, Housing for their comprehensive update, who then left the meeting.