Preventing homelessness: landlords delivering welfare rights
The wider picture
It should be emphasised that a good welfare rights service does more than just react to housing benefit problems. Experienced advisers know how different benefits link together, so that gaining entitlement to benefits for ill health or disability often has the effect of creating or boosting entitlement to housing benefit, thus helping to prevent rent arrears occurring in the first place. This is among the reasons that QXHA has always provided a generic welfare rights service, aimed at maximising tenants' income from all social security benefits.
However, the benefits of landlords delivering welfare rights services to tenants go further than the impact on housing benefit. In common with all community based social landlords, QXHA is committed to improving the quality of life for members of the community it serves, in which maximising benefit income plays a vital part. We should also bear in mind that the good will of all local residents is vital to the effective running of a social landlord's business.
Providing welfare rights services demonstrates a positive commitment to improving tenants' well-being and quality of life, thus helping to gain tenants' trust and confidence. And among the benefits of added trust and confidence, is greater willingness to communicate and co-operate with the landlord, thus increasing the chances of helpful early intervention where rent problems arise. So the wider benefits to the community also have a positive effect on preventing rent arrears.
There is another reason why social landlords can be especially effective at delivering welfare rights services. Staff members in regular contact with tenants are well placed to spot tenants' difficulties at an early stage, for instance where there are poor living conditions, social isolation or the beginning of rent arrears. In such cases, informed referral to the in-house welfare rights service leads to maximised benefit income, which enables access to linked benefits and services, all of which in turn helps vulnerable tenants to maintain their tenancies.