Skip to main content

Housing Benefit

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received on the flexibility afforded by his Department's guidance for the payment of local housing allowance. (159842)

The Department has received a wide range of representations about all aspects of local housing allowance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact on the number of landlords providing tenancies to people in receipt of housing benefit of the implementation of local housing allowance. (159843)

An assessment of the likely impact of landlords providing accommodation to those on local housing allowance was made for the Regulatory Impact Assessment that was carried out prior to the introduction of the Welfare Reform Bill 2006. This assessment recognised that a potential risk of the policy was that some landlords might choose not to supply accommodation to those on local housing allowance. However, evidence gathered from the local housing allowance pathfinder areas shows that, overall, the supply of accommodation to local housing allowance recipients increased by around 7 per cent. during the evaluation period.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that vulnerable people in receipt of local housing allowance can choose for the benefit to be paid directly to their landlords. (159844)

Anyone can request to have their local housing allowance paid directly to their landlord. The legislative requirement is for local authorities to make payments direct to the landlord where the authority considers that the customer is likely to have difficulty in relation to the management of their financial affairs.

The Department has provided comprehensive guidance to local authorities to support the implementation of local housing allowance and has consulted fully with a range of welfare rights organisations on the delivery of direct payments to housing benefit customers. In addition to this, we have provided local authorities with best practice for implementing the local housing allowance scheme which incorporates the safeguard policy for customers who may find it difficult to manage their own financial affairs. We have recently undertaken 19 regional seminars for local authorities, which included making recommendations for applying the safeguard policy.

Within the legislation there is also provision to make payment direct to the landlord where the customer has arrears of eight weeks or more. This is mandatory where it is in the overriding interests of the customer.