There’s a major shake-up on the way as Universal Credit is set to be rolled out nationally by the end of 2018. If you’re involved with a housing association, the changes are going to affect you as much as your social tenants, so it’s time to ask yourself ‘What are you doing differently?’

It’s really important you think about this now, especially if you’ve not got a plan in place. Getting people prepared will help the transition to Universal Credit easier even if it’s not hitting your area for a while. Having their benefits all paid in one go straight to a bank account will be a big challenge to many tenants, and they’ll have to get used to making their money last from month to month.

The idea behind Universal Credit is to make tenants become more financially responsible, but there’s lots of research that shows it’s not been a total success on this front so far. Many councils report higher levels of rent arrears compared to tenants not on this type of benefit, and there is even a story doing the rounds about a drug addict undergoing treatment who used the money paid to him to buy drugs rather than pay his rent.

It’s these most vulnerable of tenants who’ll need your help the most when Universal Credit kicks in, and where thinking differently is really important. They may not be used to doing things online, or comfortable with everyday banking. They might not have access to traditional lines of credit and could be forced into borrowing from loan sharks or going down the payday loan route, especially to cover the six week gap that sometimes occurs between old forms of benefit stopping and Universal Credit starting.

Generally, when people go through a big change, they’ll exhibit certain behaviours and go through what’s known as the Kubler-Ross change-curve. This curve starts at denial and finishes at moving on, with three stages in-between. All have to be carefully managed.

We’ve written about the curve in more detail before, so if you’re not familiar with it, take a look here.

Getting your tenants through this curve is a great way to do things differently. It will help both parties manage their emotions and feelings as well as deal with the practical steps. Many tenants will take forward and backward steps before they get through the curve, but once they have, they’ll be much more positive about everything.

So, now you’ve got to the end of this blog, ask yourself again ‘Universal Credit – what are you doing differently?’ and you’ll hopefully have a very different answer than you did at the beginning.

We’ve also published a white paper on Universal Credit – get your copy below.