or LinkedIn here http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy
What an interesting week in Westminster, what with the near catwalk rollout of Cameron's Babes, rejection of the male, pale & stale and the Bedroom Tax / Spare Room Subsidy report buried under it all.
In the unlikely event you missed the gratuitous Daily Mail leg and skirt fest, maybe you were on holiday or living under a stone, you can get up to speed here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2691813/Waving-goodbye-Tory-veteran-Ken-Clarke-prepares-end-ministerial-career-Cameron-reshuffle-promotes-women.html
100% less images, thighs & leg flesh accompanied the Mail's brief report on the bedroom tax, sneaked out the same day: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-2693488/BEDROOM-TAX-ARREARS-REVEALED.html
Just 4.5% of tenants hit had managed to downsize, due mainly to a lack of one bed accommodation, most being in the more expensive PRS (Private Rented Sector). No surprise to housing professionals, who have been trying their best to flag this up for the last two years. Arrears are up, foodbank use is well up by 163% (http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-figures-top-900000 ) and the benefit bill is still rising.
The press have played a big part in helping portray the 'Spare Room Subsidy' as fair. I am sick of explaining to my non-housing sector friends why this is rubbish. I remember doing some training on site last year, with two very bright twenty something's working for a medium to large housing association. Both rented flats in the PRS and this came out when training moved to HB and the monitoring of expected payments, technical and non-tech arrear.
I mentioned that with UC, HB might in future be paid direct, so explained how procedures would need to change and how that impacted the housing management system in use. At that time un-prompted, one trainee mentioned he agreed with the Bedroom Tax. Interested in this, I asked him where their single tenants in a 2 or 3 bed property might downsize to, as only 8% of their stock was one bed (& already quite actively sought after). On explaining a move to the PRS might double rent, which might all be covered with full HB, the penny dropped. "Won't that increase the amount of HB being paid?". Yup. The right wing press don't mention that.
On mentioning UC, there is another IT and process disaster being played out. Only the delays are preventing failure so far. Rather than scrapping the system now, we will in 2 years time, to do it properly (with the detail this time) or scrap it entirely. So on the reshuffle, where was IDS & Eric the Pickles? Two 'Pale and Stale' white chaps if I ever knew any. Definitely laying low those two. One would think that they both were actually meeting their briefs. That would be true if the hidden agenda was to 'break' the benefits system so badly that it was impossible to claim for very much at all, that you were entitled to. Now there's a thought...
The only silver lining to this whole bedroom tax fiasco is that many housing associations and groups have improved their data, in attempts to better understand their customers, sizes, needs, income, issues. Most organisations where I work have far better links with local credit unions (or set one up themselves), and are visibly working better with other local community resources. This data is important for so many reasons and if the Bedroom Tax is going to go away, that insight must not be lost. Keep improving the information we have and use our systems, imagination and switched on managers to continue to join the dots. Ensure users know the processes to be followed and manage them to keep them on the right track to keep improving data accuracy, for the use of the wider organisation.
Next: Do you take the customer journey seriously?
Echo and The Bunnymen - Bedbugs and Ballyhoo.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!
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