Early days: CAB evidence on the Local Housing Allowance
Since November 2003, DWP has been piloting reforms to the housing benefit (HB) system in nine local authority pathfinder areas. The reforms have two key elements – they change the way HB is calculated, introducing a flat rate Local Housing Allowance (LHA), and they change the way benefit is paid, with in most cases payment being made direct to the tenant rather than the landlord .
In five of the pathfinder areas, Citizens Advice Bureaux have been contracted to provide money management support to claimants to help them cope with the change. Evidence from this work indicates that early implementation has gone relatively smoothly. We believe two factors have been key to this success: firstly many claimants have benefited financially from the new rules, and secondly the funding of a dedicated money advice service for LHA claimants has helped tenants manage the transition and their new rent-paying responsibilities.
However it is still early days and this report raises a number of concerns which must be addressed before the reforms are rolled out nationally, if the needs of the most vulnerable claimants are to be protected.
In particular we argue that the lower rate of LHA for under 25s should not be taken forward in the new scheme, and that claimants should retain the right to choose whether they want their benefit paid to themselves or to their landlord.