Firstly – I just wanted to thank all those fantastic contributors at our annual conference this month – we had a great show across the board – and I am pleased to include full details of the event here. We hope to follow up with more in depth sessions with some of our speakers and delegates – so watch this space. The conference has made us all think about what digital inclusion means and how inclusion could help managing the risks linked to welfare reform – and Sitra is thinking about helping our members through the transition.
Following the conference, I been involved in long and detailed discussions with members, partner organisations and specialists regarding how the future treatment of exempt and supported housing will impact on the sector. As we march ever closer to the deadlines around the phased introduction of Universal Credit – it is more and more pressing that a short term solution is reached.
Those who followed the laying of the regulations will have noted suggestions that the DWP is ‘alive to the issues’ (see Column 14 – 5th line down and column 25 – 11th line), and we have been working hard to understand the full implications of how different manifestations of any change may emerge. Sector specialists and others have been focussing on how organisations might respond, and it is clear that a continuing state of uncertainty does nobody any favours – particularly those who are in supported housing. We understand that the DWP wants to talk to the sector and the message from the sector has been loud and clear that we are ready to talk.
As news of the support framework for Universal Credit emerged earlier this month, and DWP assessments about the impact of Direct Payment on rent arrears it is clear that providers will be thinking through and investing in structures to provide support and advice for their tenants and clients. One such service was profiled in our recent addition of our Bulletin, and examples of other responses can be found across the web. As we move nearer toward the implementation of areas of welfare change including the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ the pressure on tenants and clients grows exponentially. Press coverage of the placement of families in insecure bed and breakfast provision and examples of how Housing Associations have looked at the reclassifications of their properties has also received much attention. In amongst this pressure, Sitra are working with SHP on a new project to co produce benefits information for and with tenants and staff. This project has been funded by the London Housing Foundation, and the first set of information will be available in the next few months. If you would like to know more about the project, then please do get in touch.