The local authority (LA) insight survey is conducted every 6 months among managers with responsibility for the administration of Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax Benefit (CTB). It aims to provide the department with a regular means of finding out how LAs organise their benefit administration and gauging their views on the implications of current and future policy and regulations.
The report presents the findings of wave 24 of the survey, which covered the following areas:
- Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP).
HB advice since the new regulations in April 2011
- impact of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) changes on homelessness and the movement of private rented sector (PRS) claimants.
- arrears and safeguards.
- risk based verification
- removal of the spare room subsidy and introduction of the benefit cap
- supported ‘exempt’ accommodation
An important aim of this wave of the survey was to explore the impact of changes to HB in the private rented sector (PRS) and social rented sector (SRS). These changes were announced in the June 2010 Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2010 and included:
- changing the basis for setting LHA rates in the PRS from the median (50th percentile) to the 30th percentile of local market rents
- capping LHA rates by property size
- uprating HB rates annually from April 2013 at the 30th percentile of market rents, or, if lower, the September 2012 Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate
- removing the spare room subsidy in the SRS.
Other relevant measures included increasing the government’s contribution to the DHP budget by £10 million in 2011/12 and an additional £40 million a year in 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15. A non-dependant deduction to HB and Council Tax Benefit (CTB) was also implemented in stages from April 2011 onwards.
Two further changes were announced in October 2010:
- raising the age for the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) in the PRS from 25 to 35 (introduced in January 2012)
- capping total household benefits at £500 per week (£350 for single people), to be introduced in four London boroughs from April 2013, and more widely from Autumn 2013
Not all of the changes had come into affect at the time that the survey was conducted. It is possible, however, that anticipatory effects of these changes may have had a bearing on the survey. Indeed, several of the questions asked local authorities about their future plans in light of the changes.
One manager from all LAs in England, Scotland and Wales was invited to take part in wave 24 of the survey. Each received an advance letter that included a copy of the questionnaire, so that they could, if necessary, consult other managers. A total of 211 LAs participated in the survey and this includes some LAs that did not complete every section of the questionnaire. Overall, 169 filled in the questionnaire on the web, 35 on paper and 7 on the telephone, between 22 October and 14 December 2012.