Social housing tenants find themselves in debt due to welfare reforms

  • A study has been conducted by a group of social landlords titled, Real Life Reforms, to reveal the impact welfare reforms are having on social housing tenants.

    Interviews have been conducted with 83 tenants in January, many of whom have been tracked since July when the study began. Reported by 24dash.findings revealed: /images/houserise.jpg

    • 77% of households are in debt and the average owed by residents who have taken part in previous rounds of the study is now £2,943 - up 28%.

    • £34.41 is the average weekly debt repayment - an increase of 58%.

    • 18.5% of income is spent on fuel costs, compared to the national average of 5.1%.

    • 46% of participants report having nothing left each week to live on once rent and essentials such as food and bills have been paid.

    • 69% of households spend less than £40 per week on food and nearly a third of households spend less than £20 per week on food.

    • Use of local shops has halved with less than 5% of participants using them.

    • 60% of active jobseekers applied for between 20 and 40 jobs in the last three months but 71% were not offered an interview.

    • 70% of applicants for discretionary housing payments have been successful.

    The study is still continuing and landlords hope that ongoing findings will help them fully understand the impact welfare reforms are having on tenants and help them shape their polices, influence decision-making and inform national policy-makers.

    Andy Williams, director of neighbourhood services at Liverpool Housing Trust and chair of the Real Life Reform steering group, said: "Householders are falling into more debt, including some taking money from loan sharks, and it's a real concern that people are having to borrow to cope with the cost of everyday living. In our first report in September, people said they'd resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.  Nearly 8 out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food."

    Northern Housing Consortium chief executive Jo Boaden said: "Real Life Reform has been following our households for nine months now and this, our third report, provides a powerful update.  We have been engaging with parliamentarians over the course of Real Life Reform, using evidence from the research to show how the reforms are affecting people and what operational or policy changes may need to be considered. Employment opportunities remain a key strand of the research. We will be working with NHC members and stakeholder partners to explore how the housing sector and Job Centre Plus can further improve the work-seeking experience which, as our report demonstrates, can provide such a positive impact on an individual or family's life."

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