3. The key challenges ahead
Welfare Reform and changes to government policy
We need to manage carefully the forthcoming changes to welfare benefits such as the introduction of universal credit, together with other likely further policy changes.
- As universal credit rolls out to all age groups there is the issue of claimants receiving payments directly and having to prioritise housing rent and charges above other demands. More council tenants may become overdue on their rent accounts which will have a negative effect on our income collection rates, and private sector tenants may also struggle to pay their rent on time. We may also see a rise in homelessness due to evictions arising from rent arrears.
- The government’s policy of 1% rent reduction will continue to limit our income and therefore what we can achieve in terms of the aspirations we and customers have for the service.
- the government’s drive towards home ownership is reducing the availability of social housing
- the government’s likely move towards shorter term tenancies - we have already introduced flexible tenancies for some but if this becomes more widespread and secure/long term tenancies less common across social housing, there may be more pressure on the council as a provider of last resort
- the reduced funding available for some other services means that housing is seeing an increased work load with, for example, the increased need for temporary accommodation, and support for older and vulnerable people such as those suffering with mental health issues.
This combined with our demographic profile will continue to shape our need for sheltered housing and excellent services to help maintain independence and sustain tenancies. We must keep ahead of this need and make sure we have the right accommodation and services to offer.
Developing alternative ways of delivering our services
We need to find new ways to make best use of funding opportunities and deliver more affordable housing, as well as delivering our responsive repairs service in the most cost effective way.
We must promote our services to networks of other professionals and agencies, inspiring officers from other departments or agencies to ‘deliver differently’.
As council owned stock decreases through the right to buy process we will need to seek other sources of income and new opportunities to help people into housing.
Adapting to change and working differently
We must ensure that changes in our working environment, such as moving to different locations, working remotely and home working, do not adversely affect the service we offer to our residents and partners. This is also important with the introduction of more online facilities where residents can access our services from their own homes.