In 2016/17 South Staffordshire Housing Association (SSHA) achieved their lowest ever arrears in spite of on-going welfare reform and the 1% rent cut.
In 2012 SSHA deployed RentSense, at that time they had four officers each managing a patch around 1,500 in size. Since then they, with the rest of the social housing sector, have faced a whole raft of welfare reform challenges from the bedroom tax, the benefit cap to Universal Credit. The investment in RentSense proved fundamental in creating capacity for the income team to carry on reducing arrears.
“Rather than waste extra resource and money on working through an inaccurate caseload we decided to invest in RentSense. It has reduced the officers’ weekly caseload by over 80% and has created capacity of four FTE within the team,” explains Samantha Allcott, income manager at SSHA.
Alongside RentSense, SSHA have tested various pilots in terms of looking to deliver further efficiencies to mitigate on-going welfare reform, as their own internal research shows that Universal Credit cases take three times as long to manage, as other cases. However, as an organisation they are aware they have limited resource so it has to be a proportionate response. A recent pilot focused on less ‘hand holding’ of residents and this saw a reduction in arrears across the pilot group and created capacity to deal with an additional 95 cases per week.
Once Universal Credit is fully deployed SSHA expect 30% of their tenants to be claiming UC. Whereas many landlords may look to invest in additional headcount to counter this transition, SSHA’s income function has remained at four FTE since investing in RentSense.
“We invested in RentSense instead of additional resource and our arrears have reduced year on year, they are currently 1.34%, whilst the risks and challenges have increased throughout. The risk has been higher, the resource has been static and yet arrears have come down, that is because of how we have targeted our resource, and that comes down to RentSense,” explains SSHA’s Director of Customer Services and Communications, Jan Goode.