With funding from the Money Advice Service What Works? Fund, we are working with Amicus Horizon to trial a programme of ‘supported rent flexibility’ with social housing tenants in London and the South East. The project is exploring how offering financial capability support combined with individualised schedules of rent payments (which allow tenants to under or overpay on their rent account) to smooth out fluctuations in income and expenditure over the course of the year can help to reduce rent arrears and improve financial well being.
Evaluating the Social Impact of Fair for You
We are working with Fair for You, a new national not for profit organisation, which is providing an affordable alternative to the high cost Rent to Own firms such as BrightHouse. With Becky Nixon from Ideas to Impact, we are tracking the difference that Fair for You is making to its customers.
The latest project information is available here. A further, final report will be available in March 2018.
Assessing the Importance of Local Welfare Provision
With funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust we are continuing to research the impacts of reductions in Local Welfare Provision, which replaced Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans in 2013. This follows our earlier report on this issue which was published in January 2015 and which detailed wide variations in the nature and effectiveness of local schemes (see completed projects for a link to that report). Over the past year a number of English local authorities have taken the decision to either drastically cut back on their local welfare provision, or cease this completely. The current project is therefore looking at the impact of cessation on front-line services such as health, housing, welfare to work, probation, and the advice and charitable sector.
With funding from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation we researched how different groups of lower income households require support to be targeted in order to help them lead financially healthy lives. The project involved a literature and field review of existing financial capability projects to identify best practice and gaps in provision as well as focus groups and interviews with low income households themselves.
The final report is available here and the executive summary here.
We were commissioned by the Diocese of Leicester to develop a Fair Finance Strategy for the sub-region. We worked with both Leicester City and Leicestershire County Councils and stakeholders throughout the sub-region to design a strategy which set out identified the following priorities:
- Improving support for low paid workers;
- Meeting the needs of people in rented accommodation;
- Reducing the cost of living for low income households;
- Working with the financial services industry;
- Improving support for people in financial difficulty;
- Identifying and supporting the most vulnerable, and
- Mitigating the impact of financial problems on children.
Within each of these, we drew on national best practice to set out detailed work-streams which are now being taken forward by the sub-regional Fair Finance Task Group chaired by the Diocese. The final strategy is available here.
With funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust we undertook a review of local welfare schemes put in place following the abolition of the Community Care Grant and Crisis Loan elements of the Social Fund in April 2013.
The project involved an analysis of performance data obtained from English local authorities through a Freedom of Information request and comparison with published data in Scotland. We also conducted more detailed assessment of four case study areas: Hertfordshire County Council, London Borough of Islington, Newcastle City Council and Portsmouth City Council.
We found that the level of support available to vulnerable households had reduced considerably since the shift to local provision, and that there were also significant variations in the effectiveness of schemes in different areas. Many local authorities had failed to spend their funding allocations, and a failure to provide effective schemes was likely to have ‘knock on’ effects in terms of raising demand for other welfare interventions.
The report received national media attention, including in The Guardian, and has also been cited in subsequent Social Security Advisory Committee and National Audit Office publications. It is available here.
With funding from Friends Provident Foundation, and working with Donald Hirsch and research staff at Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy, we modelled the impact of credit repayments under different borrowing scenarios on the ability of low income households to maintain an acceptable standard of living as defined by the Minimum Income Standard.
We found that the credit options available to households significantly impacted on their ability to meet the minimum standard. Using high cost credit, such as door to door moneylending companies or rent to own stores, to meet the cost of Christmas or pay for essential household goods invariably meant that low income households would not be able to afford to meet other essential living costs.
If these households were able to obtain cheaper credit then they would be much better off. For example, a lone parent who switched from high cost lenders to a credit union would save around £1400 per year, euivalent to 15% of their income after housing costs.
However, the scale of credit union lending was inadequate to meet the likely demand. We estimated that the demand for lower cost credit amongst households in the lowest 30% of the income distribution is approximately £2 billion per year, which was around 4.5 times the size of the credit union sector. The report is available here.