Understanding the opportunities and challenges presented by welfare reform

viridianhousing.org.uk

Research - Viridian Housing

Understanding the opportunities

and challenges presented by

welfare reform

Final report

October 2013


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Contents

Executive Summary ........................................................................1

1. Introduction .................................................................................2

1.1. Background and context of research .............................................. 2

1.2. Research objectives........................................................................ 2

1.3. Research methodology ................................................................... 3

1.3.1. Qualitative research..................................................................... 3

1.3.2. Quantitative research................................................................... 5

1.4. Presentation of findings .................................................................. 5

2. Context: customers, welfare reforms and Viridian ..................8

2.1. The characteristics of customers .................................................... 8

2.2. Knowledge and awareness of the bedroom tax changes................ 9

2.3. Concern about future welfare changes ......................................... 12

2.4. Customer experiences and expectations of Viridian ..................... 13

2.5. Overall key findings....................................................................... 14

3. Motivations and barriers to paying rent..................................16

3.1 Customer household finance priorities.......................................... 16

3.2 The importance of financial capability ........................................... 17

3.3 The importance of financial resilience........................................... 19

3.4 Other factors influencing rent payment behaviour......................... 21

3.5 A typology of customer behaviour around rent payment............... 22

3.6 Exploring the typology................................................................... 24

3.7 Key findings .................................................................................. 26

4. Motivations and barriers to moving.........................................28

4.1. The importance of readiness to move........................................... 28

4.2. The needs of customers who are prepared to move..................... 30

4.3. Emotional and practical barriers to moving ................................... 32

4.4. Key findings .................................................................................. 36


5. Perceptions of incentives and interventions to encourage rent

payment..........................................................................................39

5.1. Preferred incentives and interventions.......................................... 39

5.2. Less popular interventions and incentives .................................... 43

5.3. Key findings .................................................................................. 46

6. Perceptions of incentives and interventions to encourage

downsizing.....................................................................................48

6.1. Preferred interventions and incentives.......................................... 48

6.2. Less popular interventions and incentives .................................... 50

6.3. Key findings .................................................................................. 53

7. Conclusion and recommendations .........................................55

7.1. Key findings .................................................................................. 55

7.2. Recommendations for a successful incentive system................... 56

7.3. Recommendations for how Viridian can protect its income and its

customers ................................................................................................ 58

Appendix 1 – Discussion Guide...................................................59

Appendix 2 – Topline survey results...........................................71


Executive Summary

1

© 2013 Ipsos MORI.


Executive Summary

Viridian’s Research and Innovation team commissioned Ipsos MORI to explore customers’

experiences, attitudes and behaviour in respect of the bedroom tax and other welfare

reforms, to better understand how to use interventions and incentives to encourage them to

pay rent and downsize. Our report presents findings and recommendations from this

research which are summarised within this Executive Summary..

The research consisted of a mixed-methods approach as follows;

Qualitative research comprising of an initial discussion group with eight Viridian colleagues

from London and the South East lasting an hour and a half, followed by15 hour long

single/paired depth interviews with customers affected by the bedroom tax were conducted

face-to-face in their home.

A quantitative survey involving telephone interviews with 201 Viridian Housing customers.

We interviewed 101 customers affected by the bedroom tax, and 100 other customers as a

‘control’ sample for the purposes of comparison. Those customers ‘affected’ by the bedroom

tax were those living in general needs accommodation who had been identified by the

Viridian finance team as in receipt of Housing Benefit and under-occupying their homes, and

not exempt from the bedroom tax due to age. ‘Control’ customers were similarly drawn from

all Viridian customers in general needs accommodation and were not classified as being

affected by the bedroom tax (while not confined solely those in receipt of Housing Benefit).

Knowledge and awareness of welfare reforms

Our survey, mostly undertaken after the bedroom tax came into effect on 1 April, found the

majority of Viridian customers knowing at least something about the reforms to Housing

Benefit. Six in ten, 59%, say they know a great deal or a fair amount, but four in ten, 41%,

say they know not very much or nothing at all with one in eight, 13%, falling into the nothing

at all category.

We found in our interviews that how, and from whom, customers heard about the bedroom

tax influenced the actions they took as a consequence. Customers who had only received

a letter from the Local Authority (LA) tended to be unaware of when the changes would

come into force, and most tended to be unaware of the precise financial implications for their

household. This meant that they were unable to develop realistic and sustainable

strategies for coping with the changes. This was typically because they saw such letters

as simply providing information which they did not necessarily need to act upon, or because

they were dubious about their liability for the reduction in benefit.

However, those customers who had received face-to-face visits or telephone calls from

Viridian housing officers were much more likely to engage with the changes, and take

their responsibilities in paying the new shortfall seriously and were considering strategies for

doing so. Customers reported that Viridian officers had explained the exact shortfall created

by the bedroom tax, which tended to be more meaningful than the percentage mentioned in

the letters from LAs.


The difference in response to, and engagement with, the implications of the bedroom tax

between customers who had been visited by Viridian officers and those who had not,

demonstrates that awareness of the precise amount of shortfall for the household given

the reforms was highly important in influencing customer behaviour, and that

such timely individualised information and support will be likely to be useful to many

customers in respect of the changes in Universal Credit.

Most customers interviewed in the qualitative interviews were aware of the

forthcoming changes in Universal Credit but only dimly, and some did not describe it as

“Universal Credit”. Those who reported that they knew about the changes tended to be

unable to explain how the changes would work in practice in any detail other than citing the

change to direct payments and the single monthly payment; they also did not know when the

changes would come in.

Indeed, the single monthly payment was the primary cause for concern for most of

those interviewed. Customers were aware of the potential difficulties the transition to this

type of payment might entail, and were also aware, to some extent, of their own inexperience

in handling any similar budgeting situations. They also tended to be more concerned about

how they would adjust to this change than they were in regard to the bedroom tax. There

was also concern amongst those interviewed about how ‘vulnerable’ customers would

manage under the new system.

Our survey asked customers to rate their satisfaction with the service provided by Viridian,

the repairs service and with their accommodation. It found strong satisfaction with

Viridian’s overall service with just under eight in ten, 79%, of customers saying they

were either very or fairly satisfied compared to 15% expressing dissatisfaction. This

narrows to two thirds (65%) who are satisfied with the way Viridian deals with repairs.

Customers are also positive about their accommodation (82% feel this way) and a

subsequent question established a strong sentiment that the number of bedrooms

customers have is the right number.

The survey suggests that communication and interventions from Viridian can build on a

largely positive reputation among customers and the trust this engenders. The qualitative

research also demonstrated that customers are very receptive to receiving support and

advice from Viridian, especially where the meetings were far enough in advance of the

changes for customers to make plans. However, there was evidence that the quality of

support from Viridian housing officers was not consistent in all regions. A few

customers reported that they were waiting to hear from housing officers, and this was

exclusively amongst customers in London.

Dealing with welfare reform

Customer levels of financial capability were important in defining how well they were able to

respond to the bedroom tax reforms. Those with stronger levels of financial capability were

better able to plan and budget in response to the changes and more likely to be able to

respond to the move to direct payments in Universal Credit, particularly in respect of

budgeting and managing benefits online.

Levels of financial resilience also shaped customers’ ability to respond to the changes.

Customers who were working and those who were able to draw on financial support from


family were more likely to have stronger financial resilience. It was evident that those

households which were unable to increase their income were less able to sustain paying the

shortfall arising from the bedroom tax, especially when customers had been out of work for

some time or were unable to work at all. These findings have important implications for how

Viridian can offer support to customers through targeted interventions to increase financial

resilience and capability, particularly when Universal Credit is introduced.

Motivations and barriers to moving home

There were two types of customers who are interested in moving home – those who are

ready to move, and those who are waiting for a short, defined period and will then consider

moving, hence ‘staying and paying’ in the short term. Those who were ready to move

tended to be at a stage of life where a move was appropriate, often because they had

children who had recently moved out, while those who intended to stay and pay in the short

term had almost reached this point themselves. Often, there was no emotional attachment

to their home, or the emotional attachment was ‘time-sensitive’, meaning they wanted to

stay for a short period of time, after which they’d be ready to look for alternative

accommodation.

Other customers who were willing to move were ‘accidental underoccupiers’ – customers

who were allocated a property with too many bedrooms in the first place, and who found

themselves looking to downsize to more suitably-sized accommodation as a result of the

bedroom tax.

Customers in the ‘Ready to move’ group tended to be considering or had already

considered moving home before the bedroom tax affected them. Reasons for wanting to

move varied: some said they were not settled in their present accommodation, some wanted

to move to a better area, while others felt that they needed to downsize after their children

moved out. For most, though, the bedroom tax was the catalyst to making the decision to

move.

Customers who fell into the ‘Short-term stay and pay’ group were more likely to be prompted

into moving by the bedroom tax changes. These customers were less likely to move

immediately, and were most unsure as to what steps to take in order to respond to the

changes, although they were willing to do so.

All customers who were interested in moving would, however, only do so if they are able to

find a ‘suitable’ alternative to their present accommodation. In this sense, being ‘ready

to move’ is more a status than a proactive disposition. ‘Suitable’ meant different things to

different customers, and some requirements were highly individualised; we found that

customers had some very specific needs, and often went into a lot of detail about the type of

property they needed in order to agree to move.

There was a strong sense that these requirements were seen as a trade-off. Customers

were keen to ‘trade’ their reduced number of bedrooms for an improvement in some other

aspect of their housing – for example, moving to a better area or more convenient location,

or to a home which was in better repair or state of decoration.

Those customers with strong emotional or practical ties to their current home or immediate

area were very unlikely to move and were determined to ‘stay and pay’. This group formed a

large proportion of those we interviewed in person. Customers in this ‘Long term stay and


pay’ segment were typically older single people or couples who regularly cared for

grandchildren; and disabled customers or customers with disabled children who emphasised

the importance of staying in a familiar environment, and often in a location which was

proximate to relevant services.

Others felt that they lived in exactly the right home for their needs, and would be unlikely

to find the same type of property if they opted to downsize. This was often an important

consideration for disabled people who required, for example, a ground floor flat, or a spare

room in which they could host a night carer.

Crucially, among those who would definitely or probably not consider moving (both those

affected by the bedroom tax and those who are not), 84% said they believe they have the

right number of bedrooms. When asked what reasons they have for staying where they

currently live regardless of rent affordability, the most mentioned reasons for both those

affected by the bedroom tax and those not were liking the local area, ‘always’ having lived

there, and wanting to remain close to family.

Overall, the combination of practical and emotional ties suggests that Viridian will find it

challenging to persuade those who have resolved to ‘stay and pay’ in the long-term even to

consider the possibility of downsizing. As a consequence, most of this group seem unlikely to

respond to proposed incentives and interventions despite many needing help.

Furthermore, many customers who both struggle financially and who tend to find financial

management difficult are present in this group; they are at high risk not only of defaulting, but

also of being resistant to moving interventions to help them manage their situation because

they are opposed to moving. However, they may be open to assistance with their financial

management, but this depends both on their relationship with Viridian and the

personalisation of such assistance; help with a customer’s individual finances and income

was often well received, where generic support was not.

For those who are prepared to move, there appears to be a ‘window of opportunity’.

Reflecting this, Viridian may benefit by offering incentives and interventions to these

customers who are most likely either not to have children, or to have children who are older

than school age and who may recently have moved out.

Encouraging customers to downsize

Customers who wanted to move wanted support in looking for suitable homes: through

support in using the transfer system (such as help searching and using the website among

older customers), and through the provision of additional suggestions in finding the right

home and regular contact and support in finding their home.

For those who were ‘Ready to move’ and among the ‘Short term stay and pay-ers’,

incentives which helped cover the cost of moving and ensuring that their new home

would be clean and well-decorated were seen as very important and were considered

attractive in terms of encouraging moving.

Those who said they were already interested in moving did not need the additional

enticement of a large cash incentive. Rather, they felt that the cost of moving and

redecorating would absorb the large part of a cash incentive anyway, and they would prefer

the support. Where redecorating was concerned, customers who were interested in moving


felt strongly that Viridian should ensure that a new home was clean, with good or new

carpets and windows in good repair. It was also important to tenants who were interested in

moving that any vouchers provided for decoration were of sufficient value to cover the

required costs.

There was a strong sense among these customers that support with these costs would

create a lot of positive feeling and would allow customers to begin a new life in a new home

on a good footing. This was seen as important as many were concerned about moving to a

new area.

Other customers in these groups reported that they would welcome support from Viridian in

changing over bills, identifying the services, such as schools, which they needed locally and

introductions to neighbours in the new area they had moved to.

Many participants were aware of Viridian’s previous cash offers to downsize. They had

thought such an incentive was important in the sense that it needed to cover the cost of

removals, decorating and ensuring that fixtures and fittings were of a high standard –

customers perceived moving as being expensive, and saw the cash incentive as

compensation. Beyond this though, some customers saw the provision of a large cash

incentive as being inappropriate, and those who were not keen to move at all – the ‘long term

stay and pay-ers’ – reported that cash incentives would not influence them at all.

Motivations and barriers to paying rent

Almost all Viridian customers reported that paying their rent was their top priority.

This was a strong finding in both the qualitative and quantitative research. According to the

survey, seven in ten of those affected by the bedroom tax strongly agree that “rent is the one

weekly or monthly bill which I try to ensure is paid off before others.” However, despite the

importance given to prioritising and paying the rent on time, some of those we interviewed in

person admitted to sometimes falling into arrears.

Where responses to the bedroom tax were concerned, it was evident that customers’ levels

of financial capability were an important influence on their behaviour. Customers who were

good at managing their finances, and had a good understanding of the impact of the

changes to welfare on their household budget were considerably less likely to default

on their rent once the changes were in effect. These customers also felt more

comfortable with the change to a single monthly payment and direct payments under

Universal Credit (though they did express concerns for how other claimants would cope).

In contrast, those customers who did not understand exactly how the changes affected

them, and felt that they were not good at budgeting, were more likely to be in a

position where they may default on rent payments. Most customers in this group reported

that they were good at budgeting because they had become accustomed to managing on a

restricted income. At the same time, they were also concerned about how they would adapt

to paying for housing costs when they received Housing Benefit themselves, fearing that they

may struggle to do so.

Direct debit was the preferred payment method for paying bills for two in five (38%) Viridian

customers, while the combined preference for paying either by cash or by payment


card/meter was broadly the same (41%). This finding links with evidence from our qualitative

work with affected customers which demonstrates that attitudes to rent payment mechanisms

also varied across customers, with older participants and those with very little financial

‘slack’ in their budgets tending to be less amenable to changing to direct debits. This

was because they preferred to have control over when and how their rent was paid, with

some concerned that a direct debit may lead them to become overdrawn.

Looking ahead, another important aspect of financial capability is likely to be internet access

and confidence in using digital methods. The survey also asked about internet access and

found just under two-thirds (64%) of customers affected by the bedroom tax having access

at home or at work, lower than the equivalent among the control group (79%). Among those

who do have internet access, only two in five (42%) would be comfortable making a benefit

claim online.

These findings pose some key challenges for changing behaviour and, further ahead, for the

introduction of Universal Credit and direct payments. Though Universal Credit will

necessitate behaviour change amongst those who are not online and not financially ‘tuned

in’, much will need to be done amongst such audiences to prepare them for the advent of the

reform.

Incentives to encourage prompt rent payment

One of the most popular incentives towards prompt rent payment was a two-week rent

‘holiday’ for those who were not in arrears and paid their rent on time. These customers felt

that this would be an effective way of Viridian offering an incentive as the notion of having

two weeks “off” paying rent was clearly attractive, providing an effective budgeting solution

for them at a crucial time of year. Colleagues, too, recognised the value of timing the

incentive around Christmas and the potential encouragement this would offer those

customers most likely to default. Even if this meant stretching 52 weeks’ worth of rent over

50 weeks, the notion of having two weeks rent free was felt to be a strong incentive.

The most financially vulnerable customer group were also positive about vouchers to

incentivise regular rent payments, providing that the vouchers were for an amount that

was substantial enough to make a difference. Further, as many reported cutting down on

food shopping costs in order to work towards this goal, the provision of shopping vouchers

was seen to be an appropriate support.

Another option discussed was offering discounts to customers who currently pay their rent

on time for six months continuously and do not have arrears. Again, among less vulnerable

customers there was more positivity towards this idea than offering vouchers since it does

not involve offering a rebate to customers, and vulnerable customers were positive as it also

gave them a goal to work towards. But those who were less vulnerable were concerned

about what effect that such a policy would have to Viridian’s income.

Though there was some positivity amongst the most financially vulnerable towards several

financial incentives, there was less support for a prize draw as an effective a way of

encouraging behaviour change, simply due to the low likelihood of benefit. Those less

vulnerable customers who generally paid their rent on time were, however, more positive

about this idea, as it seemed there would a predictable and fixed amount of money that

Viridian would be spending on the incentive.


There was strong opposition to the idea of having a ‘two tier’ repairs service in which those

who pay rent on time for six months and keep to their tenancy agreement qualify for a

premium service. This was primarily because most customers did not feel there was a need

for a better service than the one that currently exists, while others felt that a ‘two-tier’ system

would mean that the ‘basic’ repairs service would deteriorate as a result.

Colleagues involved in the group discussion considered the idea of vouchers for home

improvement for those who pay their rent on time. They were positive about this idea, as

they felt that it would both work as an incentive and help Viridian to improve the condition of

its housing stock. However, there was a mixed response from customers, many preferring

the idea of shopping vouchers, with home improvements being a much lower priority.

Other incentives were around paying rent by direct debit. Generally, most customers were

more comfortable with the idea of incentivising setting up a direct debit, rather than

continuing to pay by direct debit, however, those customers who did not have direct debits

did not feel that any incentives would make any difference to their behaviour. Many pay their

rent over the counter in their local post office in a way they have done for a while, with the

implication that they would rather retain this direct control than benefit from an incentive to

set up a direct debit. Some customers do not typically understand what difference paying by

direct debit makes to Viridian, presenting an opportunity for better information to customers

around this risk.

Along with ‘carrot’ approaches to encouraging rent payment we also discussed the ‘stick’

methods, in particular removing entitlement to repairs and warning customers of the threat of

eviction. Generally, customers across all financial types opposed the idea of punitive

approaches, as they felt that they were unnecessary and created conflict.

We found unanimous opposition among customers to Viridian withdrawing a repairs

service. As well as this being a health and safety issue, it was felt that it would not make

sense for Viridian to act in a way that might threaten its investments, potentially threatening

the upkeep of properties owned by those who could not pay their rent on time, many of

whom might not be able to afford to keep their properties in a good state anyway.

Opinions around of the threat of eviction are much more complex. Many disliked the idea of

Viridian presenting its customers with the possibility of eviction, despite an acceptance that

such interventions are effective. The survey findings indicate that only around a third of

customers say they would be more likely to give higher priority to paying their rent if

threatened with eviction, with more than half saying that it would make no difference.


Recommendations

This research has revealed a number of opportunities for Viridian to help encourage its

customers to downsize or to pay rent on time. Of crucial importance is an understanding of

the different needs of different customers – specifically their financial resilience and ability to

budget as well as their attitudes to moving. Importantly, customers are not swayed by the

most ‘lucrative’ incentives, rather the ones that are most in tune with their individual needs

and demonstrate an interest in their welfare as customers.

A key starting point to encouraging customers to pay rent on time is to identify those

customers with the lowest levels of financial resilience and capability. Otherwise, one to one

support and financial incentives could be expended on customers who are much less likely to

default.

Those customers who were likely to default were most responsive to the following;

• Early interventions and clear personalised information, including one on one

discussions about personal finances and circumstances.

• Reward vouchers they could spend on essential items, as this was felt to give

them a goal to work towards.

• Rent ‘holidays’ either as a reward for timely payments or as a result of incrementally

increasing the rent across the year.

Based on our research, Viridian should avoid

• Using financial incentive schemes which could be perceived as being costly to

the organisation, and which invoke the possibility of eviction without due

consideration.

• Punitive interventions such as removing entitlements to repairs services, or

threatening customers with eviction. These were felt to be ineffectual and would serve

simply to aggravate customers.

The main challenge in respect of encouraging customers to downsize is to identify customers

who are already ready to move or who would consider moving in the short-term; Viridian

needs to capitalise on these propensities. Customers who are unwilling to move at all and

are determined to stay and pay might be doing so because of emotional rather than rational

considerations, or might be perfectly able to ‘stay and pay’.

Again, the starting point intervention is likely to be one which enables consideration of the

viability and sustainability of staying and, again, an early face-to-face or telephone

explanation of the precise household impact of welfare reforms would help. This would allow

customers to understand whether they would be affected by the reforms, the exact nature of

the impact and an opportunity to plan for the changes.

The survey research points to the potential for some interventions to boost the extent to

which customers are willing to at least consider moving. The qualitative research showed the

following interventions were very positively received:


• Help and support in using the transfer system

• Suggestions of wider options around transfers to help customers find a home that

meets their individual needs

• Financial support to cover the costs of moving and decorating

• Ensuring the quality of the new home in respect of fixtures and fittings, and

taking into account customers’ raised expectations given the ‘trade-off’ they feel they

are making by downsizing

• Help and support in finding new schools where relevant, changing over utility bills,

and familiarisation with neighbours and the local area

Viridian should avoid offering large cash incentives to move as it was evident that those

who wanted to move were happy to do so regardless of a cash incentive. Moreover, those

who did not want to move were not interested in the cash incentive, though there were also

some who were considering moving but concerned about the costs of doing so.

In general, our qualitative research found customers tending to have minimal understanding

of how changing their behaviour could mutually benefit Viridian and its customers, although

they claimed to understand the importance of paying rents on time as most felt this was their

top priority and that they knew eviction was a possibility if they did not do so.

The low awareness of the challenges facing Viridian in the welfare reforms naturally presents

challenges with regard to choosing and communicating incentives and interventions; Viridian

must therefore consider carefully how to communicate the importance of protecting its

income to customers.

With regard to protecting customers, the evidence suggests that it will be important for

Viridian to make efforts to identify the most vulnerable customers and offer suitable tailored

support. These customers are likely to be the most constrained in responding to the

changes, and will include those who are furthest from the labour market; those with weak

financial capability; those with young children and many competing financial demands in the

household. The available resources should be directed at those with most need of help.

Isabella Pereira, Jerry Latter, Lewis Hill and Ben Marshall

May 2013

13-009139-01

© Ipsos MORI


1. Introduction

1

© 2013 Ipsos MORI.


Internal / Client Use Only

1. Introduction

1.1. Background and context of research

Welfare reforms represent the most significant housing policy changes in over a decade.

They have the dual purpose of saving public finances and changing behaviours, particularly

in relation to reducing benefit dependency and increasing labour market activity.

The key reforms to date have primarily revised the value of welfare support offered to

claimants: the bedroom tax or Spare Room Subsidy is one of the key reforms affecting

claimants in the Social Rented Sector (SRS), along with changes to Council Tax Benefit

(CTB) through the localisation of Council Tax Support and the introduction of the Benefit

Cap. Against this backdrop, the forthcoming transition to new structures of welfare payments

under Universal Credit presents further challenges particularly in the form of direct payments

to claimants and changes to the frequency and channels for payment.

These reforms present important challenges for Viridian: protecting their income by ensuring

that customers pay rent on time and do not default on payments; and in supporting

customers so that they do not experience hardship or difficulties as a result of the changes.

In April 2013, Viridian’s Research and Innovation team commissioned Ipsos MORI to

conduct research to explore customers’ experiences, attitudes and behaviour in respect of

the bedroom tax changes and other welfare reforms, to better understand how to use

interventions and incentives to encourage them to pay rent and downsize. This report

presents findings and recommendations from this research.

Ipsos MORI was well placed to deliver the research and able to draw on previous experience

researching the impact of welfare reform. This includes evaluating housing benefit and

bedroom tax reforms for DWP and the NHF, and undertaking large scale surveys

segmenting the population of welfare claimants to determine what kind of support and

encouragement they would need in the new Universal Credit system.

1.2. Research objectives

The research had two key aims: to generate insights into the experiences and perspectives

of customers whose current situation is relevant to the welfare reforms, and to shape

Viridian’s policy responses including incentives for downsizing and rent payments.

The research therefore aimed to answer the following key questions:

• What are the challenges and problems faced by customers affected by the welfare

reforms, in particular those affected by the bedroom tax changes?

o What are their needs given the reforms – in respect of financial, social and

any other relevant support?

o How can Viridian support these customers, and how open are they to such

support?

• How can Viridian best protect its income and ensure customers pay their rent given

the changes?

o To what extent are customers willing to ‘stay and pay’ and why? Are they

really able to manage this?

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Internal / Client Use Only

o

What interventions will be most effective in encouraging customers to pay

rents on time given the changes?

• What would encourage customers affected by the changes to move to a new home

and why?

o What are the reasons behind reticence or propensity to move for different

affected client groups?

o What interventions (financial and otherwise) are likely to be most effective in

helping customers who would like to or need to move to do so?

o What are their experiences or perceptions of using the transfer system?

More generally, the research was concerned with exploring the motivational basis of

customers’ decisions and their response to a range of potential interventions.

1.3. Research methodology

The research consisted of a mixed-methods approach: qualitative research with Viridian

colleagues and customers affected by the bedroom tax, and a survey of Viridian customers

both affected and, as a control, those unaffected. In both cases, samples of pre-defined

customers were provided by Viridian to Ipsos MORI.

1.3.1. Qualitative research

The qualitative research comprised an initial discussion group with eight Viridian colleagues

from London and the South East lasting an hour and a half. These included housing officers

from general needs housing and supported housing, welfare benefits advisors and a

representative from the finance team. Following this, 15 single/paired depth interviews with

customers affected by the bedroom tax, conducted between 20th March and 27th April.

Interviews with customers were conducted face-to-face in their homes by experienced

interviewers from Ipsos MORI, and interviews lasted around an hour.

Customers were selected to take part in the interviews according to criteria which aimed to

include as diverse a range of customers affected by the bedroom tax in the research as

possible, in a range of relevant locations. Only those in general needs properties were

approached. The following table gives details of the customers spoken to throughout the

qualitative research.

Figure 1: participants in the qualitative interviews

Participant type Target Recruited Interviewed

Parent and child (18+) 2 3 3

Single parent 3 4 4

Couple in their 20s-40s with children 3 2 2

Couple in their 20s-40s without 1 0 0

children

Couple both in their 50s 3 1 1

Single person in their 50s 1 3 3

Single person under 50 1 2 2

Transfer customer From the above (2) (2)

Total 14 15 15

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Six interviews took place in London with the remaining eight in locations outside of the

capital. Three were held in Milton Keynes, one in Northampton, one in Battersea, one in

Wandsworth, and two apiece in Croydon, Birmingham, Littlehampton and Lambeth.

Customers were recruited for the research through a short telephone call asking them

screener questions to ensure they were eligible for the research and to ensure their

willingness and interest to take part. A discussion guide was used to structure the

conversations with customers, to ensure that content of interviews was consistent across the

research. The guide drew on the ‘COM-B model’ of behaviour change (Michie, Stralen and

West, 2011) 1 in order to fully explore the barriers and enablers to customers paying rents

and moving. In this 'behaviour system,' capability, opportunity, and motivation interact to

generate behaviour that in turn influences these components as shown in Figure 2 (the

'COM-B' system).

• Capability is defined as the individual's psychological and physical capacity to

engage in the activity concerned. It includes having the necessary knowledge and

skills.

• Motivation is defined as all those brain processes that energise and direct behaviour,

not just goals and conscious decision-making. It includes habitual processes,

emotional responding, as well as analytical decision-making.

• Opportunity is defined as all the factors that lie outside the individual that make the

behaviour possible or prompt it.

The single-headed and double-headed arrows in Figure 2 represent potential influence

between components in the system. For example, opportunity can influence motivation as

can capability; enacting a behaviour can alter capability, motivation, and opportunity.

Figure 2: the ‘COM-B’ system

Capability

Motivation

Behaviour

Opportunity

1 The original paper is accessible at: http://www.implementationscience.com/content/6/1/42

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The discussion guide for the interviews is included as an appendix at the end of the report.

All interviews were recorded with customers’ permission, and most interviews were also

transcribed. Analysis of the qualitative interviews was conducted throughout fieldwork

through team discussions, and once the interviews were concluded using fieldnotes and

transcripts.

1.3.2. Quantitative research

The quantitative survey involved interviews with 201 Viridian Housing customers with sample

and contact details supplied by Viridian. Interviewing was conducted by telephone between

15 March and 23 April 2013 with quotas set by region and children in household. Interviews

lasted an average of 14 minutes in length. We interviewed 101 affected customers, and 100

other customers as a ‘control’ sample for the purposes of comparison. Data has been

weighted to the known customer profile.

Those customers ‘affected’ by the bedroom tax were those who had been identified by the

Viridian finance team as in receipt of Housing Benefit and under-occupying their homes, and

not exempt from the bedroom tax due to age. A total of 669 customers for whom we had

usable contact details were in this category.

‘Control’ customers were similarly drawn from the much larger database of Viridian

customers and were not classified as being affected by the bedroom tax (while not confined

solely those in receipt of Housing Benefit).

Quotas and weights were based on the profile of the full customer database sent through by

Viridian. Quotas were flexibly applied given the small sample numbers and the target

number of interviews, although, in the event, we were able to secure a representative

sample of customers while securing the required numbers.

Region quota (based on ALL interviews):

Target

Achieved

London 142 138

Not London 58 63

Total 200 201

Children in household quota (for control interviews):

Target

Achieved

Yes 34 34

No 66 66

Total 100 100

Children in household quota (for affected interviews):

Target

Achieved

Yes 25 30

No 75 71

Total 100 101

1.4. Presentation of findings

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This report integrates findings from the qualitative and quantitative research.

It is important to note that qualitative findings are not statistically representative of the views

of the general public. Qualitative research is designed to be illustrative, detailed and

exploratory and provides insight into the perceptions, feelings and behaviours of people

rather than conclusions from a robust, quantifiable valid sample.

As far as possible we have attempted to state the strength of feeling about a particular issue,

although in some cases it has not always been possible to provide a precise or useful

indication of the prevalence of a view due to the small numbers of participants taking part in

the research. Further, the perceptions of participants make up a considerable proportion of

the evidence in this study, and it is important to remember that although such perceptions

may not always be factually accurate, they represent the truth to those who relate them.

Verbatim comments have been used throughout this report to help illustrate and highlight

key findings. Where verbatim quotes are used, they have been anonymised and attributed

with relevant characteristics of gender and location, as in the following example: Female,

Birmingham

The quantitative research, as with all surveys, generated estimates which are subject to

sampling tolerances, sometimes called margins of error. These are typically 6 to 10

percentage points (depending on the percentage finding) for samples of 100. For

differences to be ‘statistically significant’ between samples of 100, differences would need to

be between 8 and 14 percentage points (again depending on the percentage). The results

we present in this report should therefore be treated with this in mind and, where possible,

we have provided advice on interpretation of the survey data within commentary. Further

information is available in the set of detailed data tables provided separately.

The findings are presented in seven chapters:

1. Introduction

2. Context: Customers, welfare reforms and Viridian

3. Motivations and barriers to paying rent

4. Motivations and barriers to moving

5. Perceptions of incentives and interventions to encourage rent payment

6. Perceptions of incentives and interventions to encourage moving

7. Conclusions and recommendations

Each chapter is divided into subsections which are listed at the start of the chapter. In all

chapters bold type is used to indicate key findings, which are summarised at the end of

the chapters. Italics are used for emphasis.

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2. Context: customers,

welfare reforms and Viridian

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2. Context: customers, welfare reforms

and Viridian

In this chapter we summarising research findings in relation to the following:

• The characteristics of customers;

• Customers’ knowledge and awareness of the bedroom tax changes;

• Their concern about future changes to welfare; and

• Their experiences and expectations of Viridian in respect of welfare changes.

2.1. The characteristics of customers

The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Viridian Housing involved interviews with

201 customers. The survey included questions relating to welfare reforms but also a range of

classification questions providing data about the socio-demographic profile of Viridian’s

customers to supplement what is already known by Viridian through analysis of the customer

database. This is summarised below although it is important to remember that the profile of

customers affected by the bedroom tax is fluid, as eligibility changes depending on

customers’ circumstances. The overall base is skewed heavily towards customers affected

by the bedroom tax, and all results are subject to sampling tolerances.

The majority of Viridian’s customers live in London – four in five among those affected by the

bedroom tax (80%), and more than three in five of the wider customer group (62%). While

there is little difference between the two groups with regard to household size, those affected

by the bedroom tax are most likely not to have children living at home. Three-quarters of

customers affected by the bedroom tax do not have children living at home, compared with

two-thirds of the control group.

Within the group of customers affected by the bedroom tax, 56% claim full housing benefit,

with the remaining 44% receiving partial housing benefit. Among control customers, around

half (52%) get housing benefit, while the remaining 48% receive no housing benefit at all.

In terms of wider benefits, at least one in five customers affected by the bedroom tax claims

Child Tax Credits (21%), Income Support (23%) and/or Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

(24%). Control group customers typically claim comparatively fewer benefits, though 17%

also claim DLA, suggesting there are quite high numbers of people with a disability living in

Viridian properties. Relatively few customers say they are not receiving any benefits at all –

just 3% of those affected by the bedroom tax and 25% of the control group.

Households affected by the bedroom tax are less likely than control group customers to work

full time. In the former group, around one third (33%) have at least one member of the

household who works full time, compared with almost three in five (57%) for control group

households. Consequently, household income tends to be lower on balance for households

affected by the bedroom tax (though a number of respondents are unwilling or unable to give

this information). Nearly half of customers affected by the bedroom tax (45%) say they don’t

know what their household income is compared with 27% of control group households.

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The vast majority of Viridian customers have a bank account: 86% of customers affected by

the bedroom tax compared with 89% of the control group. In addition, around two thirds have

at least one direct debit set up on their account (67% and 66% of customers affected by the

bedroom tax and control group customers respectively). Control group customers are more

internet savvy, however: 79% have access to the internet and 33% use online banking, while

comparatively fewer customers affected by the bedroom tax have internet access (64%) or

bank online (22%).

2.2. Knowledge and awareness of the bedroom tax changes

Most customers interviewed in the qualitative research had heard about the bedroom tax

from the Local Authority (LA), typically through receipt of a letter informing them of the

relevant reduction. Letters from the LA tended to cite a percentage reduction and did not

mention the exact shortfall the household would need to find. Some of those interviewed

had, in addition, received information about the changes through a face-to-face visit from a

Viridian housing officer, in which the exact shortfall affecting their household was explained

to them. Only two customers reported awareness of discretionary housing payment (DHP):

one had heard about this from the LA after enquiring for advice, and the other had heard

about DHP through word-of-mouth.

How and from whom customers heard about the bedroom tax influenced the actions they

took as a consequence. Customers who had only received a letter from the LA tended

to be unaware of when the changes would come into force, and most tended to be

unaware of the precise financial implications for their household. This meant that they

were unable to develop realistic and sustainable strategies for coping with the changes.

These customers were reactive, not proactive, about seeking out information about how the

changes would affect them. For example, customers reported receiving letters from their

local authorities about the bedroom tax but that they tended not to take any action in

response to these. This was typically because they saw such letters as simply providing

information which they did not necessarily need to act upon, or alternatively because they

were dubious about their liability for the reduction in benefit – for example, if their child had a

disability which they thought might make them ineligible, or because they did not believe the

reforms would happen.

By the time [the bedroom tax] gets to us maybe it'll just be a disaster and it won't start

because it'll be messed up everywhere else

Female, Battersea

Our survey, mostly undertaken after the spare room subsidy reforms came into effect on 1

April, found the majority of Viridian customers knowing at least something about the reforms

to Housing Benefit. Six in ten, 59%, say they know a great deal or a fair amount, but four in

ten, 41%, say they know not very much or nothing at all with one in eight, 13%, falling into

the nothing at all category.

There is, though, higher claimed knowledge among the affected group of customers – 65%

of these say they know a great deal or a fair amount with 10% answering nothing at all or

don’t know, suggesting that Viridian’s work in contacting affected customers has been, to

some extent, successful. Reported knowledge of the reforms is higher among those who

partially receive Housing Benefit than among those who do not and whose benefit is paid

directly to Viridian. At the same time though, there is little difference in claimed knowledge

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between those who would consider moving and those who would not, nor between those

who report often running out of money and those who do not. This suggests that affected

customers may have difficulties appreciating the potential impact of the reforms even though

they are better informed about the changes than those who are unaffected.

The qualitative research sheds light on these themes. The in-depth interviews demonstrated

that customers who had received face-to-face visits or telephone calls from Viridian

housing officers were more likely to engage with their new situation, in taking their

responsibilities in paying the new shortfall seriously and considering strategies for doing so.

Customers reported that Viridian officers had explained the exact shortfall created by the

bedroom tax, which tended to be more meaningful to customers than the percentage

mentioned in the letters from LAs. They also reported that officers had helped them work

through their finances to help them understand if they could afford the reduction in the

Housing Benefit.

I think it was from Viridian – I think they came round just to check that I was going to be able

to manage … she sat there and one the incomings and outgoings…That was very useful

‘cause she sat there and [worked it all out] … yeah, everything that came in, everything that

went out including things like the cat food, the washing, everything. And then she worked

out that I’d have about £2 a week left over

Female, Littlehampton

In contrast, the responses of customers who had not been visited or spoken to by a Viridian

housing officer were typified by passivity in response to the reforms. Most in this group were

content to wait until they were specifically asked to respond or prompted (for example

through being referred to DHP) and none were taking any measures in advance of the

changes to mitigate their effect.

I’ll just see what happens … I’ve got to sort [the DHP] out anyway

Female, Birmingham

These customers were less likely to be aware of the implications of the changes for their

household and, hence, the sustainability of remaining in their home. They also tended to be

unsure about where to search for support, and tended not to feel a sense of urgency in

seeking advice around the reforms.

I’m just aware that they’re charging you a little bit extra, encouraging people to downsize, but

if not and if you’re willing to stay where you are then pay the extra money … but I’ve got no

idea of what the figures are. I think I’ll have to go to the [Viridian] office and find that out

because I haven’t had any notification, none whatsoever.

Female, Lambeth

The difference in response to, and engagement with, the implications of the bedroom tax

between customers who had been visited by Viridian officers and those who had not,

demonstrates that awareness of the precise amount of shortfall for the household

given the reforms was highly important in influencing customer behaviour. This was

evident in specific, individualised information about the household impact of the bedroom tax

helping customers understand how viable and/or sustainable it was to ‘stay and pay’ if they

were inclined to do this. In some cases it also confirmed that their household was liable for

the reduction in benefit.

Basically we worked it out that a week’s worth of benefits I’ve now lost because I have to pay

the bedroom tax – that’s about all I get a week. That’s a whole week’s worth of money that I

need to find. And my gas has gone up, my electric’s gone up, my water’s gone up.

Female, Milton Keynes

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This type of information and support was typically delivered to customers face-to-face by

Viridian Housing Officers but was also reportedly effectively delivered by telephone.

Customers expressed a preference for a face-to-face explanation as it helped them

understand the implications for their household budgets; they felt they understood the

implications of the reforms better when they were explained in detail and through the offer of

face-to-face support which helped them work out how they might be able to adjust their

budgets given the changes.

However, although effective, some personalised interventions had occurred too late for

many customers to adjust to their new circumstances effectively in anticipation of the

changes. This may prove to be an important lesson regarding the importance of providing

early support to customers about the financial implications of Universal Credit. Others were

waiting to hear from welfare officers through follow-up telephone calls even though changes

were imminent. This type of customers tended not to be concerned about the timeliness of

receipt of this support, but they were also, at this point, unaware of importance of the

changes for their household.

My Housing Officer, I’m waiting for a phone call from her because I haven’t really been

spoken to about it in depth; all I know that it was coming in effect from 1st April and so I just

started paying it, but it seems like I’m the only one doing it, so I need to know more about

that as well.

Female, Milton Keynes

Overall, these findings indicate that timely individualised information and support around the

specific household implications of welfare changes has already made a difference for some

existing customers. Looking ahead, it would be likely to be useful to many customers in

respect of the changes in Universal Credit.

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2.3. Concern about future welfare changes

In general, customers interviewed were accepting of the bedroom tax changes as they

tended to feel that it was important for the right-sized homes to be available to families who

needed them. However, others – typically those with a disability or those who were strongly

emotionally attached to their home – felt that the changes were unfair. They believed that the

changes made their lives considerably more difficult given they believed it would be very

hard for themselves to find the extra income to cover the shortfall, and that their extra

bedroom was useful to them.

Most customers interviewed in the qualitative interviews were aware of the

forthcoming changes in Universal Credit (UC) but only dimly, and some did not describe

it as “Universal Credit”. Those who reported that they knew about the changes tended to be

unable to explain how the changes would work in practice in any detail other than citing the

change to direct payments and the single monthly payment; they also did not know when

the changes would come in.

What they did say was, there wouldn’t be no more Job Seekers; they’re putting everything

into one and it’ll just be a universal payment or something like that

Female, Birmingham

However, although customers did not tend to report awareness that UC would be managed

online and paid to one household member only, the single monthly payment was the

primary cause for concern for most of those interviewed. Customers were aware of the

potential difficulties the transition to this type of payment might entail, and were also aware,

to some extent, of their own inexperience in handling any similar budgeting situations. They

also tended to be more concerned about how they would adjust to this change than they

were in regard to the bedroom tax.

I understand that there’s going to be a universal tax [sic] … You know people talk and they

say that all the benefits are going to be put into one and you get it once a month. Me and a

friend were discussing it a couple of days ago, you just have to budget yourself; whatever

you was getting weekly you’re now going to get everything once a month, so you need to

budget yourself and know what you’re doing.

Female, Lambeth

Many customers expressed disquiet about the financial management skills which would be

required by customers given the changes. Some were concerned as to how they would

adjust to the changes personally particularly in relation to budgeting, feeling that a single

monthly payment may mean they may be tempted to prioritise other urgent or unexpected

costs over paying the rent.

I know it sounds mad to say it – if the money’s in there, but you think have I got this and that,

and you’ll probably tend to forget about paying [the rent on time]

Female, Birmingham

There was also concern amongst those interviewed about how ‘vulnerable’ customers

would manage under the new system. Customers expressed particular concern about

those with addictions or mental health support needs which may mean they have physical

reasons which would restrict them in managing their finances effectively.

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I can understand that because as well people in the first place, I would pay my rent myself,

but there are some people that can – you know drugs or whatever, what are they going to do

with that money?

Female, Birmingham

2.4. Customer experiences and expectations of Viridian

Our survey asked customers to rate their satisfaction with the service provided by Viridian,

the repairs service and with their accommodation. It found strong satisfaction with

Viridian’s overall service with just under eight in ten, 79%, of customers saying they

were either very or fairly satisfied compared to 15% expressing dissatisfaction. This

narrows to two thirds (65%) who are satisfied with the way Viridian deals with repairs which

is important because previous Ipsos MORI analysis of data collected for social landlords has

shown perceptions of repairs to be among the key drivers of overall satisfaction.

Four-fifths (82%) of customers are also positive about their accommodation and a

subsequent question established a strong sentiment that the number of bedrooms

customers have is the right number. Around three-quarters of those affected by the

bedroom tax took this view – very similar to non-affected customers – but this group was

more likely to think that they had more bedrooms than needed (17%) and less likely to say

that they did not have enough bedrooms.

We found lower and weaker satisfaction (that is, a smaller proportion saying they were very

satisfied) with Viridian’s service among those affected by the bedroom tax compared to the

wider group of customers but, still, 71% are positive and half of these very positive. Similarly,

affected customers tend to be less satisfied than other customers in terms of repairs, and

notably, a third (34%) express dissatisfaction with an equal split between those fairly and

very dissatisfied. There is though little difference between the views of affected and control

customers on accommodation.

Customers living outside London are relatively more satisfied than those living in the

capital in respect of Viridian’s service, the repairs service and their own

accommodation. Otherwise, there are some differences among types of customers but

these are less consistent; for example, those with children are relatively less satisfied

(although, on balance, satisfied) with their accommodation than those without children, but

more positive about Viridian’s overall service and equally positive (and negative) about the

repairs service.

This data indicates that communication and interventions from Viridian can build on a largely

positive reputation among customers and the trust this engenders. The qualitative research

also demonstrated that customers are very receptive to receiving support and advice

from Viridian. Ten of the fifteen households interviewed in the qualitative research had

received a telephone call or face-to-face visit from Viridian regarding the bedroom tax

changes and most were very positive about the experience, especially where the meetings

were far enough in advance of the changes for customers to make plans.

Yes it was helpful … because … she came here about a year before all of this happened to

tell me that this was going to happen … it made me worry where this [money] is going to

come from.

Female, Birmingham

However, there was evidence that the quality of support from Viridian housing officers

was not consistent in all regions. A few customers reported that they were waiting to hear

from housing officers, and this was exclusively amongst customers in London.

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From last year they said that somebody was coming to visit me. We were talking about this

from last year and it never did happen. Like the Housing Officer – I’ve got to come and see

you because we’ve got to talk about this new housing etc. – but it didn’t materialise.

Male, Lambeth

Other customers struggled to understand the relevance of the service offered to them,

particularly when they did not understand the urgency of the issues relating to the bedroom

tax. As an example, one customer who was offered support with finances did not feel it

would be useful to her as she believed the focus to be on dealing with debt only.

Their lady rung up and asked me if it would affect me, and I said yes. And I asked her what

help they could offer me and she’s like we can help you with debt management, and I’m like

I don’t have any debts, well not yet. I need help with paying the bills.

2.5. Overall key findings

Female, Milton Keynes

The findings on customers’ initial responses to welfare reform demonstrate the importance of

customers having timely access to information about how the bedroom tax affects their

household on an individual basis in terms of what their exact shortfall will be, and whether

there are resources in the household to cover this shortfall. Customers with this information

are better positioned to take action in response to the changes, but they are unlikely to

receive it from the LA, or to seek out the relevant support themselves.

The findings also illustrate that customers are widely concerned about how they and other

more vulnerable customers will be able to manage their finances when direct payments and

single monthly payments are introduced under Universal Credit, with some fearing that they

may default on rent payments, at least initially. Customers also generally view Viridian

positively as a landlord, especially outside London, and are very receptive to support

services around welfare and financial management offered by their landlord.

These findings suggest that there is an important opportunity for Viridian in supporting

customers in advance of the changes in Universal Credit. Customers are receptive to

Viridian as a provider of support and they also trust their advice and insights. However, they

do not typically understand how to adapt to the budgeting requirements of UC, although they

are aware they may need to. Early support and intervention here may mean customers are

less likely to default when Universal Credit is introduced.

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3. Motivations and barriers

to paying rent

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3. Motivations and barriers to paying

rent

Many of the most important issues customers faced in dealing with the bedroom tax and

other welfare reforms related to their finances. In this chapter we explore this issue in depth,

presenting a customer ‘typology’ or segmentation of how customers were responding to the

changes in respect of paying their rent and managing the new shortfall. The chapter covers

the following sections:

• Customer household finance priorities;

• The importance of financial resilience;

• The importance of financial capability;

• Other factors affecting rent payment behaviours;

• A typology of customer behaviour around rent payment; and

• Case illustrations to explore the typology in more depth.

3.1 Customer household finance priorities

Almost all Viridian customers reported that paying their rent was their top priority.

This was a strong finding in both the qualitative and quantitative research. According to the

survey, seven in ten customers affected by the bedroom tax strongly agree that “rent is the

one weekly or monthly bill which I try to ensure is paid off before others.” Customers we

spoke to in the qualitative research similarly reported that paying the rent on time was vital to

them remaining in their homes, and, although few foresaw themselves actually being

evicted, many were nonetheless concerned about the potential threat of eviction should they

get into arrears.

Well one week if we’re proper broke and we ain’t got no money for shopping, there’s always

that temptation and we will end up taking £100 out of the rent and can’t afford to pay it back

and you end up getting into trouble.

Female, Battersea

However, despite the importance given to prioritising and paying the rent on time by most

participants, some in the qualitative research admitted to sometimes falling into arrears. The

reasons for this tended to be the challenges of managing other competing demands for

scarce household resources, such us unexpected costs or urgent bills. Even some of

those customers who did not have arrears reported that it was often difficult to manage their

finances without getting into debt.

It’s like you get a bill in and you know this bill is ‘on demand’ now and you think let me pay

this and I’ll leave that there and then I’ll pay that next week, and then that’s how you get

behind.

Female, Birmingham

Despite this, and despite customers’ general aversion to getting into arrears on their rent

payment, most customers were reluctant to make big changes to how they managed their

finances or move home in response to the bedroom tax. Most were unsure as to how they

would be able to cope with the change financially, and felt they would find ways to

pay the shortfall in the short term by cutting back on food or utility costs. Those who

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understood that they might have difficulties paying the shortfall in the longer term had taken

action, such as starting to look for work, or applying for a transfer – but they were generally

inclined to see how they managed initially before stepping up their efforts to respond

to the changes. This was typically because they understood that some of the strategies

they might need to employ, such as finding work or a suitable home to move to, would have

a long lead time, and, where they were inclined to consider such options, customers tended

to find them challenging or daunting to contemplate.

I’m waiting to see how I can cope first.

Female, Birmingham

3.2 The importance of financial capability

There is a wide literature citing the importance of financial capability in the lives of families

and individuals with low incomes 2 . Financial capability is the knowledge, awareness and

the ability to manage money well and in changing circumstances i.e. the ability to adapt

budgeting to deal with a monthly income, understanding the household impact and

implications of welfare reforms, and understanding how to use tools and products which

would support adapting to welfare reform (for example, using direct debits) are all examples

of demonstrating strong financial capability in response to the bedroom tax. To illustrate, the

following comment exemplifies the skills, knowledge and capacity to respond to changes of

one Viridian customer with high levels of financial capability:

I sit down and I write everything that goes out of my bank; I have two bank accounts – one I

make a transfer into it once a month and all my direct debits goes out of that account and I

never touch it. And the other one is what I call my cash account, if there’s money in it I’ve

got money to spend, but if there isn’t that’s it I’ve got nothing. But I transfer the money in

there, because a lot of people get caught out with direct debits going out at different times; I

don’t, I just put it in there and I don’t touch it.

Female, Milton Keynes

In contrast, the following comment exemplifies the attitudes and behaviours of a customer

who has lower levels of financial capability:

I’m fuzzy-headed when it comes to money. I know when I’m going to be paid because my

bank balance goes down and I think I must be due soon, but I couldn’t tell you when it is.

And we go out, do the shopping, pay the bills; I don’t actually count at the pennies as it were,

just float along.

Female, Littlehampton

Where responses to the bedroom tax were concerned, it was evident that customers’ levels

of financial capability were an important influence on their behaviour. Where financial

capability was weak, this was a critical potential constraint on their ability to respond,

particularly in relation to paying rent. Customers who were good at managing their

finances, budgeting to avoid arrears and debts, and had a good understanding of the

impact of the changes to welfare on their household budget appeared (and reported

that they were) considerably less likely to default on their rent once the changes were

in effect. These customers also felt more comfortable with the change to a single monthly

2 For example, Taylor, Jenkins and Sacker, 2011, accessible at

https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/publications/working-papers/iser/2011-18.pdf

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payment and direct payments under Universal Credit (though they did express concerns for

how other claimants would cope).

I don’t have any problems … I can manage my money … I have a payment card for Viridian

… it won’t affect me”

Male, Birmingham

These customers tended to be aware of the precise household impact of the welfare

changes and expressed concern about their financial situation given the reforms, as well as

worries about defaulting on their rent and potential eviction. They were typically taking some

form of action in response to the changes and understood the implications of both the

reforms and of getting into arrears.

I don’t want to get into debt with it because if we get into debt it’s going to stop us moving,

we couldn’t get downsized.

Male, Milton Keynes

In contrast, those customers who did not understand exactly how the changes affected

them, and felt that they were not good at budgeting, were more likely to be in a

position where they may default on rent payments. Customers who expressed these

concerns were the predominant group among the qualitative interviews. Most customers in

this group reported that they were good at budgeting because they had become accustomed

to managing on a restricted income. At the same time, they were also concerned about how

they would adapt to paying for housing costs when they received Housing Benefit

themselves, fearing that they may struggle to do so (as discussed in chapter 2). A few others

also reported being regularly in arrears with rent and other bills.

I plan to pay my rent arrears in a haphazard way when I'm brought before the court doors.

Female, Croydon

The survey data also indicated the importance of financial capability for claimants affected

by the reforms. Across all customers there are no statistically significant differences in the

incidence of planning budgets weekly, fortnightly or month between those who report often

running out of money and those who do not. Similarly, there are few differences between

affected customers and others, although the former are relatively more likely to plan weekly

or fortnightly, and less likely to plan monthly. Those with children are more weekly-focused

as are younger age groups, while those in work are more likely than the average to plan on a

monthly basis.

Among the affected group, however, just under a fifth (19%) say their planning varies, while

a third plan weekly (32%) and a very similar percentage do so monthly (30%). This group is

also fairly equally split between favouring direct debit, cash and payment cards/keys for

meters as a payment method. They therefore contrast to the wider group of customers not

affected by the reforms who are relatively more equivocal in favouring direct debit.

Direct debit was the preferred payment method for paying bills for two in five (38%) Viridian

customers, while the combined preference for paying either by cash or by payment

card/meter was broadly the same (41%). However, fewer customers affected by the

bedroom tax prefer to pay bills by direct debit than other customers (31% vs. 45%).

There is also a regional dimension, with customers outside of London (32%) more likely to

prefer to pay bills with cash than those in London (18%).

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This finding links with evidence from our qualitative work with affected customers which

demonstrates that attitudes to rent payment mechanisms also varied across customers, with

older participants and those with very little financial ‘slack’ in their budgets tending to

be less amenable to changing to direct debits. This was because they preferred to have

control over when and how their rent was paid, with some concerned that a direct debit may

lead them to become overdrawn.

I couldn’t live like that, because [if it goes out automatically] then you’d be left with nothing …

but if [your money] is in the bank it’s [just] sat there.

Female, Milton Keynes

Looking ahead, another important aspect of capability is likely to be internet access and

confidence. The survey also asked about internet access and found just under two-thirds

(64%) of customers affected by the bedroom tax having access at home or at work, lower

than the equivalent among the control group (79%). As would be expected, older age groups

are less likely to have access and so too are those whose benefit is paid entirely directly to

Viridian. This means that a higher proportion of those who would consider moving are online;

80% against 67%.

Among those who do have internet access, only two in five (42%) would be comfortable

making a benefit claim online. There is little difference in attitude between those who

currently claim benefits and those who do not. Similarly, affected and control groups are

equally likely to say yes, and no. Among those online, younger customers are more

confident than older people about claiming benefits online.

These findings pose some key challenges for changing behaviour and, further ahead, for the

introduction of Universal Credit and direct payments. They indicate that for every two

customers affected by the reforms who know a great deal or a fair amount, there is another

who thinks they know very little or nothing. More of the wider group of affected customers

prefer cash and payment cards/keys for meters over direct debits, and the majority of those

online would not currently feel confident applying for benefits this way.

The implication from this is that because Universal Credit will necessitate behaviour change

among those who are neither online nor financially ‘tuned in’, much will need to be done to

prepare such customers for the advent of the reform. Some will need to be shown that online

claims are easy and that transacting online is secure and straightforward, but others will

need considerably more help with internet access both in terms of equipment and training.

3.3 The importance of financial resilience

Financial resilience is also widely seen as important for the ability of households to respond

to changing circumstances. Financial resilience is the ability to withstand financial

‘shocks’ – the existence of savings, the ability to increase household income through paid

work and access to formal or informal credit on agreeable terms are factors which would

increase the financial resilience of a household. Customers with low financial resilience

would struggle to adapt to unexpected reductions in income or increases in expenditure, as

illustrated below:

I mean as long things don’t happen like the washing machine breaks or the telly. So as long

as everything is tickety boo then that’s fine, then we can manage.

Female, Littlehampton

The findings from the survey research pointed to the importance of financial resilience for

claimants. Our survey found 30% of all customers reporting that they have never run out of

money before the of end of the week or month over the course of the past 12 months and a

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very similar proportion, 29%, say this has hardly ever happened. However, 38% say they

have run out of money very or fairly often and, at just under half (49%), this is notably higher

among those affected by the bedroom tax. In fact, a quarter of this group say this has

happened very often.

The likelihood of affected customers reporting that they have run out of money very or fairly

often is higher among those who only have part of their housing benefit paid – 55% against

44% of those whose rent is covered entirely by housing benefit. The incidence is also higher

in London than elsewhere, among those under the age of 55, and among those who are not

in work. It is also striking that among all customers – wherever they are based and whether

affected by the reforms or not – those who earlier in the interview had said they would

definitely or probably consider moving to more affordable accommodation are more likely to

report running out of money than the average.

While few customers affected by the bedroom tax disagree that they currently prioritise rent

payments, a quarter report running out of money very often. By this definition there is more

variation in financial resilience among those who receive Housing Benefit directly than those

who don’t (that is, higher proportions sitting at the ‘very often’ and ‘never’ ends of our answer

scale).

Where responses to the bedroom tax were concerned, it was also evident that customers’

levels of financial resilience were an important influence on their behaviour. Where financial

resilience was weak, customers tended report they were likely to have difficulties paying

their rent. Among customers there was a spectrum of financial resilience, with those

households with someone working or where family members were able to offer

regular financial support had the greatest levels of resilience, and those where

customers were either unable or struggling to find work had the lowest levels of

resilience. Further to this, households with someone in work were also more likely to have

smaller shortfalls as a result of the bedroom tax because they received less Housing Benefit

than those households which were benefit-dependent.

Across the interviews, most customers interviewed had very low levels of resilience as

their households were almost entirely benefit-dependent. This group appeared

considerably more likely to default on their rent once the changes were in effect and made

up a large proportion of the participants interviewed in the qualitative research.

I only pick up £177 a month from the school and my Job Seekers is £42 a fortnight; I’ve got

to supply for my son as well ‘cause he’s not at work or anything, he’s 16. But they’ve

increased his child benefit in child tax but that’ll run out in September, so I just don’t know

how I’m going to provide for him and pay that out as well. It’s just going to be a nightmare.

Female, Birmingham

We’re struggling now and it’s only been two weeks [since we started paying the bedroom

tax]. It’s only £15 [per week] but that’s a big impact on us; that is off my food bill or petrol or

electric.

Female, Milton Keynes

Customers with low financial resilience typically reported that they would respond to the

bedroom tax and ensure that their rent was paid by making cutbacks in their household

expenditure: on food, utilities and other bills. This was because this seemed the most

straightforward solution to the challenges they faced, and one which did not require the

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solution of more difficult and more long-term problems, such as moving home or finding

work.

If I tighten my belt quite a lot I can just about manage; I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. All I

have is my Sky TV and I go to the osteopath once a month; that’s my luxuries and that’s all I

can afford. So it’s a case of I had to tighten my belt. I love my music, my CDs, I can’t do

that. And you get into silly things like wrapping paper; it was my birthday last month and I

saved all the bags and the wrapping that I could re-use because it might only be a little bit of

money

Female, Milton Keynes

Such customers were disinclined to see finding paid work as a viable option for increasing

their income, and tended to be resistant to taking a lodger as an alternative response, for

reasons which we will discuss in the following section.

3.4 Other factors influencing rent payment behaviour

Renting a spare room to a lodger

The qualitative interviews suggested that customers were typically opposed to taking a

lodger in response to the reforms. For most customers this was primarily because they

felt they needed the ‘spare’ bedroom for their own purposes – to house an occasional carer

or a family member who lived elsewhere stayed with the family from time to time (we

explore the importance of these attitudes in the following chapter). However, where

customers did not consider their spare bedroom to be in use, they objected to taking a

lodger because they felt that it would be intrusive or inappropriate to house a stranger in

their home.

To get £13 … we wouldn’t take the risk in our culture … we wouldn’t do it … we have a

daughter here

Male, Birmingham

Others were confused about what taking a lodger might mean for their eligibility for benefits,

feeling that their entitlement would be reduced if they had an income from a lodger. One

customer who was concerned about this felt she needed more information about how it

would work if she were to take on a lodger and what it would mean for her benefits, and felt

Viridian could provide her with this information.

What they suggested was a lodger, but the thing with that is if you have a lodger your

benefits are going to be – because if you have a lodger and you’re on benefits, your benefits

are going to be taken off you because you’ve got this lodger, and I don’t know if that’s going

to weigh up with this.

Female, Birmingham

Looking for work

The qualitative interviews also suggested that customers who felt able to look for work

also believed it would be hard to find a suitable job and often based this on

experience. Such customers reported currently looking for work and facing difficulties such

as low levels of skills, high levels of competition and the need for permanent work that paid

enough for them to be better off in work.

I need to get a permanent job and get a decent wage, because if I’m going to have to

contribute to the rent and stuff like that it has to be worthwhile, otherwise what is the point in

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working when you’re not really making anything; it has to be able to cover the rent and the

rooms and stuff like that.....otherwise it’s kind of hard.

Male, Birmingham

Others were concerned at the amount of time they had been out of the labour market, feeling

that it would be very challenging for them to find work. For some of this group this was

because of disabilities or health restrictions which meant it was difficult for them to take on

regular paid work, whereas other were concerned that their age or the length of time they

had been out of work may hinder their search for work.

It’s not like I’m on the dole and I can’t find a job; I’ve tried for jobs but they won’t employ me

because they can’t insure me because of the medication I take, and my condition is

unpredictable; I can’t tell you what I’m going to be like tomorrow, so tomorrow I could have a

good day or I could have a really bad day.

Female, Milton Keynes

At the time [of hearing about the reforms] I thought I’ve definitely got to find a job but I’m at

the age where – I’m 56 – who’s going to want to give me a job, and I’ve got a disability in my

leg.

Female, Birmingham

A few customers also expressed concerns about how finding work would affect their

benefits. These customers felt they needed support to understand if they would be better off

working given the bedroom tax reforms.

I’m going to have to find more work, but I’m worried if I find more work I’d have to pay the full

amount of the rent and it’s going to be even harder that way.

Female, Birmingham

3.5 A typology of customer behaviour around rent payment

Drawing on the issues discussed in this chapter regarding the importance of financial

capability and financial resilience, the chart below summarises a customer typology around

rent payment. It illustrates that the key characteristics defining the likelihood of defaulting are

different levels of financial resilience and capability and outlines some of the typical

characteristics in each of the four customer types.

Figure 3: a typology of customer behaviour around rent payment

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Skills and resources-based typology for customer behaviour

around paying rent on time

Financial Resilience:

strength of income levels, support, or assets

Managing with support

No trouble paying

Can manage to

pay ‘bedroom

tax’ and unlikely

to default

Cannot manage

to pay ‘bedroom

tax’ and likely to

default

• Older single people

• Support networks likely

to be adult children

• No arrears and debt -

averse

• ‘Bedroom tax’ is low

(single bedroom)

• Full HB claimants,

typically with children in

household

• Arrears or other debts

• Competing household

priorities (children/ debt)

• Not working and far

from the labourmarket

• ‘Bedroom tax’ may be

high (two bedrooms)

• In paid work

• No arrears and debt -

averse

• ‘Bedroom tax’ is small

proportion of rent (single

bedroom; HB lower as in

work)

• Single people claiming

benefits as only income

• Typically have a disability

• Not working; likely to be

claiming ESA and/ or DLA

Financial

Capability:

financial

management

skills, and

knowledge

and awareness

of householdlevel

impact of

changes

Struggling and unaware

Struggling but aware

Customers in the ‘Struggling and unaware’ group were the largest group among those

interviewed in our qualitative research. They also tended to pay the largest shortfalls as

the bedroom tax reduction in Housing Benefit is calculated as a percentage of their (typically

full) entitlement. There were only very small numbers of customers in the ‘Managing with

support’ and ‘No trouble paying’ groups.

Knowledge of the precise household impact of the changes varied across these groups

since this was largely dependent on whether the claimants had had a face-to-face visit or

telephone call from a Viridian housing officer. Customers in the ‘No trouble paying’ group

had generally not required this support to understand the impact, and had been able to

understand the financial implications themselves.

The typology presents some challenges for Viridian. Our analysis finds that those with

greater financial capability and resilience are less likely to default. Taking this further, we see

merit in consideration being given to how Viridian can increase capability and resilience

qualities among customers most likely to default. Indeed, many were open to the possibility

of such support although most had not expected it from their landlord. In the following

section we explain each group in the typology in more depth through presenting an

illustrative example of each type.

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3.6 Exploring the typology

The following case studies illustrate the importance of financial capability and financial

resilience in customer rent payment behaviour. The first two studies present examples of

customers who were able to pay the bedroom tax and were confident they would be able to

continue paying the shortfall in the long term.

CASE STUDY: RENT PAYMENT – ‘MANAGING WITH SUPPORT’

Nora is a single person in her 50s who lived alone in her three-bedroom house in Milton

Keynes. She had moved to the house from the South of England around two years ago

because she wanted a “fresh start” after her parents died in quick succession. She had three

sons and a number of grandchildren in the South, who often visited her and stayed

overnight, particularly during school holidays.

She does not work, and receives disability-related benefits as her main source of income.

She first heard of the bedroom tax in a letter from the council, but later had a visit from a

Viridian housing officer who helped explain what it was and how to pay it. She said the

amount she was required to pay was low, and believed she would be able to manage.

Crucially, though, she said that if she were ever to fall into difficulty with paying the rent, she

reported that her three sons would pay it on her behalf.

Nora was opposed to the Universal Credit changes and was concerned about the thought of

having to manage her housing benefit and pay her rent under the new system. However,

because of her low shortfall and the financial resilience provided by her support network, this

was unlikely to lead to a default.

Consequently, she had no plans to move, believing that she would be able to manage to pay

the rent and stay in her present accommodation where she was comfortable and able to

host her grandchildren whenever they wanted to stay with her.

Looking at this in terms of the COM-B model, Nora clearly lacks the motivation to move,

rather than the capability or opportunity. On reflection, she sees herself as being able to stay

and pay in the long term through budgeting and support, therefore has not given serious

consideration to the need to downsize.

Female, Milton Keynes

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CASE STUDY: RENT PAYMENT – ‘NO TROUBLE PAYING’

Diana, 50, lived in her three bedroom flat in Lambeth with her 14-year-old daughter. She had

lived there for more than 16 years, during which time her two elder daughters had moved out,

but her five grandchildren came to stay on a regular basis. She typically works as a

receptionist more than 30 hours per week. She pays most of her rent herself from her salary,

with a relatively small proportion covered by Housing Benefit.

While she still had to budget carefully, her income provided her with a far greater level of

financial resilience than most other people interviewed in the qualitative research. She was not

in arrears and had not been for some time. In addition, her comparatively low housing benefit

claim meant the ‘bedroom tax’ did not have as big an impact as it did on other affected

customers.

Overall, Diana did not anticipate any rent payment difficulties in light of the introduction of the

bedroom tax, and was comfortable with the change despite not knowing the specific amount

she was required to pay when interviewed. She believed that Universal Credit would cause

problems for those who struggled to pay their rent, and that she too might have fallen into this

category when younger, but said “I will work with it when it all kicks in”.

Female, Lambeth

In contrast, the following two case studies illustrate examples of households which are less

likely to be able to pay the bedroom tax, and may struggle under the UC welfare reforms,

demonstrating the difficulties faced by households with low financial resilience in particular.

CASE STUDY: RENT PAYMENT – ‘STRUGGLING AND UNAWARE’

Susanna and Mark are a mother and son living in a four-bedroom house in Birmingham. Susanna

has lived there for 13 years, during which time she cared for her own mother in the same house until

her death three years ago. They have two spare bedrooms and are very concerned about how they

will be able to pay the bedroom tax.

Mark is 19 years old, and although he has completed college he is struggling to find a job which will

pay well enough for him to be able to help his mother out with paying the shortfall.. Susanna too would

like to find work to help pay the shortfall, but she has not worked for over 20 years since she ended

her career as an auxiliary nurse to have her children, and is dubious about her ability to find a job in a

tough labour market. They have no savings and few family members they can rely on for financial

support – their financial resilience is very low.

The household has been in rent arrears a few time already this year, and they also sometimes struggle

to pay utility bills – Susanna often finds herself “robbing Peter to pay Paul” where her outgoing are

concerned. She is worried about how she will manage under Universal Credit too, feeling that she will

soon get into difficulties under the new system of benefits. She knows about the bedroom tax changes

and has received support from a Viridian housing officer which has helped her consider her longerterm

options – looking for work and seeking a transfer. But in the mean time, she is going to try and

cut household spending to “see how long I can survive” without moving.

Using the COM-B model this family is arguably lacking the opportunity to downsize – they clearly need

to move as they are losing 25% of their housing benefit. However, presented with the right

opportunities in terms of suitable properties in suitable areas they may well consider moving.

Paired depth, Birmingham

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CASE STUDY: RENT PAYMENT – ‘STRUGGLING BUT AWARE’

Anna is a single person in her 30s who moved to her current two bedroom house in 2008 after a

transfer from another Viridian property. She worked as a custody officer for some time before an

accident left her disabled, for which she received ESA. While she was able to cope financially before

the ‘bedroom tax’, she expected to have to find “a whole week’s worth of money” per month after its

introduction in April. However, she was not prepared to move because the nature of her condition

meant she would need her spare bedroom to provide facilities for a night carer at an undefined point

in the future.

Her mother lived nearby, and she had a network of people in similar situations to her own with whom

she met on a regular basis. However, while both her mother and her friends provided a strong

amount of emotional support, they were not able to provide any financial support to her.

Consequently, she had a low level of financial resilience, and by her own admission, “providing I can

stay with the benefits I get now I can just about manage, but if they take money off me then no I

can’t.”

However, while her financial resilience was low, her financial capability was high. She budgeted

methodically, and explained that “I don’t have a problem managing my finances… I’m confident with

my finances. I’ve been caught out in my past before, so now I’m really rigid about my money.” She

also applied for the discretionary housing payment, though was unsure if she would be successful

with her application.

Overall, then, while Anna had the financial capability to manage her money effectively, her low level

of income made paying the rent difficult, and she feared that falling into arrears was a real possibility.

Female, Milton Keynes

3.7 Key findings

Customer levels of financial capability were important in defining how well customers were

able to respond to the bedroom tax reforms. Customers with stronger levels of financial

capability were better able to plan and budget in response to the changes and more likely to

be able to respond to the move to direct payments in Universal Credit, particularly in

respecting of budgeting and managing benefits online.

Customers who had been visited by Viridian housing officers and talked through their

household budgets in light of the reforms were likely to have higher levels of financial

capability, as were those who were in single-person households or were in paid work.

Customers in benefit-dependent households where there were children and no-one was in

work were most likely to have low levels of financial capability.

Levels of financial resilience also shaped customer ability to respond to the changes.

Customers who were working and those who were able to draw on financial support from

family were more likely to have stronger financial resilience. It was evident that those

households which were unable to increase their income were less able to sustain paying the

shortfall arising from the bedroom tax, especially when customers had been out of work for

some time or were unable to work at all.

The findings have important implications for how Viridian can offer support to customers –

through targeted interventions to increase financial resilience and capability. We discuss

these possibilities in detail in the final chapter.

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4. Motivations and barriers to moving

One of the key areas of focus in the research was around motivations for, and barriers to,

moving. This was discussed in detail with customers participating in the qualitative research,

while the quantitative survey also asked a number of questions about propensity to

downsize. This chapter explores the issue in detail, seeking to understand which customers

would be more likely to consider moving, why customers say they would or would not

consider moving, and what requirements do those who are willing to move have in order to

do so. It will cover:

• The importance of readiness to move;

• The needs of customers who are ready to move;

• Emotional and practical barriers to moving; and

• Findings from the survey data.

4.1. The importance of readiness to move

Customers affected by the bedroom tax fell into three distinct groups in respect of their

attitudes to moving home. The following chart presents this customer typology around

attitudes to moving home, derived from analysis of the qualitative interviews.

Figure 4: Customer attitudes to moving home

4. Motivations and

barriers to moving

Attitudinal typology for customer behaviour around moving home

Ready to

move

Short -term

‘stay and pay’

Long -term

‘stay and pay’

Will move now

with support

• Have moved before

recently; not emotionally

attached to home

• Parent/ children’s

lifestage means move is

suitable

• Aware that ‘staying and

paying’ unsustainable

• ‘Accidental

underoccupiers ’ – housed

in wrong -sized home

Will move in

time

• Waiting for change in

parent/ child’s lifestage for

move to be suitable

• A ‘time -sensitive’

emotional tie to the

home/ area

• Do not understand for

how long it will be

sustainable to ‘stay and

pay’

• Looking for work

Unlikely to

move

• Very strong practical and

emotional ties to home/ area (see

chart)

• Likely to be service dependent -

• Likely to have grandchildren

• Place high importance on

familiarity of environment – hence

likely to be disabled or have

disabled child

• Likely not to have moved recently

or at all

As the chart illustrates, willingness to move was important. There were two types of

customers who are interested in moving home – those who are ready to move, and those

who are waiting for a short, defined period and will then consider moving, hence ‘staying and

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paying’ in the short term. In this section we discuss the characteristics of these customers,

tackling the requirements of customers who were not willing to move later in this chapter.

1) Those who were ready to move tended to be at a stage of life where a move was

appropriate, often because they had children who had recently moved out, Often,

there was no emotional attachment to their home, or the emotional attachment was

‘time-sensitive’, meaning they wanted to stay for a short period of time, after which

they’d be ready to look for alternative accommodation. They were aware that they

cannot continue to live in the property as it is unaffordable; indeed many may have

already been looking to move as they were paying unnecessarily high rent for a

property that was larger than they needed.

2) Those who were prepared to stay and pay in the short term were often waiting for

an event to transpire before they moved. Very often this was a change in lifestage -

often their child was embedded in a particular school and would be unwilling to be

uprooted. However, they also worried about how sustainable it will be for them to

continue to pay for a ‘spare’ room, and many were simply holding out until

circumstances force them to move. Often, they were looking for work or to increase

the hours that they do currently work to account for the shortfall.

3) Those who were unlikely to move and keen to stay and pay in the long term were

those who had the strongest emotional and practical ties to their area., Often these

had accrued over time, and those in this segment tended to be older customers,

often with grandchildren, and often reliant on support from neighbours or family

based nearby. Also, they are unlikely to have moved from their property for a number

of years and this will impact on their preparedness to go through the moving process.

“The way I look at it is, she [her daughter] will be moving, she’s 18, but obviously she’s in

college full-time, we live here… it’s home and it’s safe, I don’t want to move her. So for the

next year I’ll be paying [the bedroom tax]. Once that year’s up, once she leaves home then

come and stick me in a bedsit.”

Female, Littlehampton

Importantly, those in both customer types with low income had understood and accepted

that staying and paying was not an option in the long term. For those who were ready to

move now, they knew that the bedroom tax put an immediate strain on their household

finances and that they needed to move as soon as possible, while ‘short term stay and pay’

customers either did not fully understand how long they could afford to stay and pay, or

believed they would be able to manage for a limited, although undefined, amount of time.

I wouldn’t say ideally I’d want to move; I’m going to try and see how I can survive, and if I

can’t survive I will have to move because I’ve got an application form for a transfer; anyway I

will have to move if I can’t survive.

Female, Birmingham

Other customers who were willing to move were ‘accidental underoccupiers’ – customers

who were allocated a property with too many bedrooms in the first place, and who found

themselves looking to downsize to more suitably-sized accommodation as a result of the

bedroom tax.

We were looking for something with a downstairs toilet and were given a house with three

bedrooms … we would not have moved house if we had known about the bedroom tax but

we didn’t know what would happen

Male, Birmingham

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4.2. The needs of customers who are prepared to move

Customers in the ‘Ready to move’ group tended to be considering or had already

considered moving home before the bedroom tax affected them. Reasons for wanting

to move varied: some said they were not settled in their present accommodation, some

wanted to move to a better area, while others felt that they needed to downsize after their

children moved out.

For most, though, the bedroom tax was the catalyst to making the decision to move.

I mean I’ve known about it [the bedroom tax] from last year and that’s what prompted me to

move. Although I’ve always said I want to move and I want a transfer, it prompted me to do

that.

Female, Lambeth

Customers who fell into the ‘Short-term stay and pay’ group were more likely to be prompted

into moving by the bedroom tax changes. These customers were less likely to move

immediately, and were most unsure as to what steps to take in order to respond to the

changes, although they were willing to do so.

I’m not saying that I couldn’t move somewhere else and be happy as well, I’m not saying

that, but it’s just the fact that you’re having to uproot yourself if you really didn’t want to

move. To have to uproot yourself, I probably wasn’t ever thinking of moving for now until

when this bedroom tax came

Female, Birmingham

All customers who were interested in moving would, however, only do so if they are able

to find a ‘suitable’ alternative to their present accommodation. In this sense, being

‘ready to move’ is more a status than a proactive disposition.

‘Suitable’ meant different things to different customers, and some requirements were highly

individualised. Common among customers with young children or grandchildren was a

desire to move into a property with a garden, while disabled tenants said they needed things

relevant to their condition like downstairs bathrooms or other adaptations. Customers also

expected their new home to be in good condition, clean, and preferably recently decorated.

We found that customers had some very specific needs, and often went into a lot of detail

about the type of property they needed in order to agree to move.

Ground floor, street property preferably. If it is going to be an estate, not a vast estate like

this one, because to be fair where I came from originally it was a street property… two

decent sized bedrooms, [and a] decent sized bathroom… when I first got this flat I thought it

was a cupboard because the door opened outwards

Female, Lambeth

There was a strong sense that these requirements were seen as a trade-off. Customers

were keen to ‘trade’ their reduced number of bedrooms for an improvement in some other

aspect of their housing – for example, moving to a better area or more convenient location,

or to a home which was in better repair or state of decoration. Some saw their decision to

move as ‘helping’ Viridian.

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I don’t see why we should give up a three bedroom house to help them out and they can’t

meet me halfway and give me a two bedroom house with a bit of a garden, because that is

my only chance to get out [of the house]

Male, Milton Keynes

However, customers who were ‘ready to move’ were prepared to stay in their current

homes for as long as necessary until the ‘right property’ came along. For most, the

importance of finding ‘suitable’ accommodation significantly outweighed any other

consideration, financial or otherwise. This was even true of those who knew they would

struggle to pay their rent because of the introduction of the bedroom tax.

If they offer me somewhere and it’s suitable, fine. If not then I’ll pay the extra because you’re

not just going to up and leave your home that you’ve been in how many years just for the

sake of it.

Female, Lambeth

Customers who were considering moving tended to have low levels of understanding of

using the transfer system, and in particular about other options in looking for a suitable

home. They welcomed support from Viridian in helping them find a suitable home, and as

the case study below shows, some believed it is actually Viridian’s responsibility to find

them suitable accommodation.

CASE STUDY: EXPECTATIONS OF HELP FROM VIRIDIAN TO FIND A NEW PROPERTY

David and Sonia lived in a three-bedroom house in Milton Keynes. Their daughter had moved

out, and they had a teenage son who had almost finished school living with them. David was

disabled, and his wife cared for him full time. They had considered moving before, but the

bedroom tax, which they didn’t think they would be able to afford, meant they decided to

downsize to a two bedroom property.

They were only prepared to move to a property which met their needs, explaining that no

incentive would persuade them to move somewhere they didn’t particularly like. Specifically,

they wanted a garden for David to have access to outside space where he would feel safe

and comfortable given his disability, and they also wanted to move to a nicer area than the

one they were currently living in.

They believed that it was Viridian’s responsibility to help them find a property, firstly because

it was in their interest to do so. “We have asked Viridian for a two bedroom and you’d think

being willing to downsize they’d jump at the chance of finding something and get a bigger

family in here.”

However, they also felt that housing officers had knowledge of families who are under or

overoccupying, and could therefore match families up and suggest home swaps. “[The

housing officer] must know her residents and how the occupancy situation is, so why doesn’t

she say ‘I’ve got a three bed here but they want a two bed, you could do with a three bed, do

you want to swap?’”

They hadn’t been proactive in looking for a new property themselves, and preferred to wait

for Viridian to come to them with suggestions for suitable properties.

Using COM-B this couple are motivated to move and believe that they are capable of doing

so, but simply lack the opportunity. They do not feel that they have been offered a suitable

property, and this is the barrier preventing them from moving.

Couple, Milton Keynes

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The quantitative survey also raises some important considerations for the ‘Ready to move’

and ‘Short term stay and pay’ segments. Those dissatisfied with their accommodation

appear more open to moving, as do those who say they frequently run of out money before

the end of the month.

Many affected customers would consider moving; 17% ‘definitely’ and 20% ‘probably’. This

interest in considering moving is mirrored among the wider group of Viridian customers; 17%

and 22% of the control group give the equivalent ‘definitely’ and ‘probably’ answers.

However, it is important to note that most customers tend to think locally. Almost half (45%)

of those affected and not definitely ruling out considering moving say they would only be

prepared to move 5 miles or less – a finding which chimes with the qualitative research.

Some would, though, consider moving further afield, although almost all of these customers

do not have children, with two person households seeming more likely to consider moving

further distances (please note this finding is based on small base sizes).

However, there is an important caveat to this. Among those who do not definitely rule out

considering moving – i.e. those who say they would probably not consider moving as well as

those who would consider it – one in six (15%) go on to say ‘none’ when asked the furthest

distance in miles they would be prepared to move. A similar proportion answer ‘don’t know’.

Taken together, these findings illustrate perhaps the potential for customers initially being

receptive to considering moving before wavering, or resisting, when it comes to practicalities.

4.3. Emotional and practical barriers to moving

Customers with strong emotional or practical ties to their current home or immediate area

were very unlikely to move and were determined to ‘stay and pay’. This group formed a large

proportion of those spoken to in the qualitative research. Customers in this ‘Long term stay

and pay’ segment were typically older single people or couples who regularly cared for

grandchildren; and disabled customers or customers with disabled children who emphasised

the importance of staying in a familiar environment, and often in a location which was

proximate to relevant services.

While those who were interested in moving tended to be at a life stage which allowed them

to consider doing so, ‘Long term stay and pay’ customers often had children who were

established in their schools and not close to an age when they would naturally change

their educational institution. These customers were also likely not to have moved recently

or at all, placing a strong emphasis on the familiarity of their home or immediate

surroundings.

Overall, these customers had strong emotional and practical reasons for staying which

meant they were strongly opposed to moving, despite the financial implications of remaining

in their present accommodation. The main reasons are outlined in the following diagram:

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Figure 5: Practical and emotional reasons for ‘staying and paying’

The ‘ties that bind’ long-term ‘stay and payers’

Practical Ties

Emotional Ties

Grandchildren

Services like

schools and

hospitals

Attachment to specific home

Local networks

Familiarity

with the area

With regard to practical ties, services were frequently cited, with customers explaining that

being in close proximity to services like hospitals and schools was important to them. For

customers with children of school age, many were reluctant to move as they felt it might

mean their children would have to move school, or that it would be more difficult for them to

get to school.

My daughter does not want to change school … she has friends there … it was nearer then,

but she won’t move, so we pay for her transport … it is really about her willingness to

change schools.

Female, Birmingham

For customers with a disability, being able to access local hospitals or clinics, or having a

spare bedroom for health reasons, meant they were reluctant to think about downsizing, as

the case study below shows:

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CASE STUDY: PRACTICAL TIES TO STAYING AND PAYING IN THE LONG TERM

Andrew lived alone in a two bedroom flat on an estate in South London. He was given his

current property 17 years ago after suffering from kidney failure, and has been receiving

dialysis treatment since then. Previously, his second bedroom contained a dialysis

machine, but a change in circumstances meant he had to start attending appointments at

hospital.

His flat was perfectly located between the various hospitals and clinics he attended, and

he explained that “it’s easy to commute to the hospital and to all my other clinics…

everything is around this area, my whole life is around here.” He also had a night

carer who stayed with him on occasion during difficult periods of treatment.

He feared that, by agreeing to downsize, he would no longer be able to accommodate a

night carer during more difficult times. He also believed that if he were to agree to move,

he might end up being housed too far away from the hospitals and clinics he used for his

treatment, and his quality of life would diminish as a result.

Andrew therefore he lacked the capability to move – he felt that he would be actually at

risk because of his condition should he be housed too far away from the hospitals.

Because of this, he was also lacking the motivation to do so,

Male, Lambeth

One of the key emotional ties which played a huge part in the decision-making

process for those who had decided to stay and pay was a strong affinity towards the

local area. ‘Local area’ meant different things to different customers, but could be as specific

as the road on which the customer lived.

I really don’t want to [move]; I like living here, I’m happy here… a bungalow would be better

but I don’t want to move off the street.

Female, Milton Keynes

Often, though, ties which bound customers to their homes had both an emotional and

practical element to them. Local networks were an important practical and emotional

consideration. For the vast majority, having friends or relatives nearby was a crucial factor in

the decision to stay and pay, with many reluctant to leave them behind.

It's convenient - I've got everybody around me who knows me; I think if I need help I can call

for help.

Female, Battersea

Support networks also provided some customers with a source of financial resilience,

meaning they were more likely to be able to afford to pay and stay. In addition to this,

having an attachment to their specific home was also a key consideration for many. Some

had lived in their home for most or all of their lives, and they were prepared to pay the

bedroom tax in order to stay there.

I’ve lived there all my life, it’s my home. [My mother] made it comfortable for herself, she

made it comfortable for me, all the kids, other children, grandkids

Female, Battersea

Others felt that they lived in exactly the right home for their needs, and would be unlikely

to find the same type of property if they opted to downsize. This was often an important

consideration for disabled people who required, for example, a ground floor flat, or a spare

room in which they could host a night carer.

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Social Services won’t give you a night carer if you can’t provide facilities [a spare room] for

them. [By moving] I’ll be putting myself in a position where I wouldn’t be able to cope and

live independently, so why would I do that? I’m only in my 30s. I want to live as

independently as possible.

Female, Milton Keynes

One of the key research findings among this segment was the importance of

grandchildren in discouraging people from moving. Caring for grandchildren was both

an emotional and practical tie. Grandparents were often a source of practical help to their

adult children in caring for their grandchildren while their parents worked – for example, at

weekends or overnight covering shift work when formal childcare was unavailable – but also,

at an emotional level, grandparents with grandchildren who lived locally enjoyed having their

grandchildren around.

Crucially, having a spare room meant that grandchildren were able to stay more comfortably,

and the cost consideration for those affected by the bedroom tax was outweighed by the

desire for customers to accommodate their grandchildren. In addition, it meant that

customers did not want to move too far away from where they lived if their grandchildren

were nearby.

We’re very, very close to our grandchildren and for us to leave them behind, it’d be a wrench

for us and a wrench for them.

Male, Milton Keynes

Some customers reported the importance of their specific home in relation to this, with

grandchildren coming to associate their grandparents with the home in which they lived.

I said to my granddaughter – ‘I’m thinking I might have to move from here’. She looked at

me horrified. She said, ‘Nan, you can’t do that, I look forward to coming here, where am I

gonna go?’ So I thought no.

Female, Battersea

The quantitative research similarly demonstrates the importance of practical and emotional

ties to the long term pay and stay attitudinal segment. Four fifths (82%) of customers were

positive about their accommodation. In addition, the vast majority of customers affected by

the bedroom tax believed they have the right number of bedrooms for their needs: 73% said

this was the case, with just 17% saying they have more bedrooms than needed.

Crucially, among customers who would definitely or probably not consider moving (both

those affected by the bedroom tax and those who are not), 84% said they believe they have

the right number of bedrooms. When asked what reasons they have for staying where they

currently live regardless of rent affordability, the most mentioned reasons for both those

affected by the bedroom tax and those not were liking the local area, ‘always’ having lived

there, and wanting to remain close to family. This finding is very much in line with what

customers reported in the qualitative research.

When asked how they would cope with a reduction in Housing Benefit to ensure that rent

remains affordable, most affected by the bedroom tax said they would economise rather

than consider moving to more affordable accommodation. This is also true of those claiming

a good level of knowledge of the benefit changes, and those who say they frequently run out

of money before the end of the month. Thus, most of those who are perhaps closer to

understanding the extent of the cut in their Housing Benefit and its impact are, on this

evidence, more likely to see moving as a last resort rather than an immediate consideration

without prompting or intervention.

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Reflecting these attachments to accommodation and area, two in five of those affected by

the bedroom tax (40%) say they would definitely not consider moving to somewhere more

affordable if they could no longer afford the rent (though this question did not explicitly

reference down-sizing, just affordability). Importantly, the extent of this desire to stay is not

unique to this group; they are neither more, nor less, likely to move than other Viridian

customers, as shown in by following chart.

Most customers say they would probably not consider moving,

regardless of whether they are affected by the bedroom tax or not

Q If you could no longer afford the rent here, would you consider moving to

somewhere more affordable, or not?

% Don’t know Affected by

the bedroom

tax

% Definitely consider

6 moving

Definitely /

17

probably

37%

consider

moving

Control

39%

% Definitely

not consider

moving

41

21

% Probably

consider

moving

Definitely /

probably not

consider

moving

57%

55%

15

% Probably not

consider moving

Base: All customers within control group (100) and those affected by the bedroom tax (101)

© Ipsos MORI Version 1 | Internal/client use Only

Source: Ipsos MORI for Viridian Housing

Among both those affected by the bedroom tax and those who are not, those living in

London are relatively less open to considering moving; so too are those affected by the

bedroom tax living in larger households and older age groups. But those dissatisfied with

their accommodation appear more open to moving as are those who say they frequently run

out of money before the end of the month.

4.4. Key findings

Overall, the combination of practical and emotional ties suggests that Viridian will find it

challenging to persuade those who have resolved to ‘stay and pay’ in the long-term even to

consider the possibility of downsizing. As a consequence, most of this group seem unlikely

to respond to proposed incentives and interventions despite many needing help.

Furthermore, many customers who both struggle financially and who tend to find financial

management difficult are present in this group; customers who are at high risk not only of

defaulting, but also of being resistant to interventions to help them manage their situation

because they are opposed to moving.

However, for those who are prepared to move, there appears to be a ‘window of

opportunity’. Reflecting this, Viridian may benefit by offering incentives and interventions to

these customers who are most likely either not to have children, or to have children who are

older than school age and who may recently have moved out.

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Importantly, though, both the qualitative and quantitative research suggests that customers

who are willing to move are unlikely to want to move a great distance away from their

existing accommodation. Therefore any interventions designed with this in mind are likely to

be most productive in encouraging movement.

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5. Perceptions of incentives and

interventions to encourage rent payment

In this chapter we present findings in respect of customers’ views of and

5. Perceptions of incentives

interventions to encourage rent payment. The chapter covers:

5.1.

and interventions to

Preferred incentives and interventions

encourage rent payment

• Preferred incentives and interventions; and

• Less well-liked incentives and interventions.

Initial considerations and concerns

As all customers currently have their rent, either in whole or in part, paid by their Housing

Benefit generally directly to Viridian, many did not initially understand the relevance of

incentive schemes to encourage them to pay their rent, and felt that they would not be

eligible. Though Universal Credit had already been touched upon earlier in the interview, it

was only on prompting that customers understood that the new payment landscape would

mean that they would have greater responsibilities in ensuring that their rent is paid on time,

in full, to Viridian.

As such, there was a poor understanding across the discussions with customers of the need

for incentives to encourage customers to pay rent on time. Indeed, many objected to the

principle of such schemes and many could not understand why Viridian should be

incentivising them to pay their rent on time as they felt that this was a basic requirement of

their tenancy. This was felt strongly by Viridian colleagues in our preliminary discussion

group with them; many felt that it was unfair that such basic compliance was being financially

rewarded:

I understand the discount for the free rent or whatever, but why are we giving them money to

pay the rent; if you’re not going to pay your rent you get evicted and that’s just the end of

that.

Viridian Colleague, colleague discussion group

As well as the ethics of such schemes, there were anxieties around their cost but also a lack

of conviction about how effectively they would encourage customers to pay on time or take

up direct debits. Those participating in the colleague group, and some customers, were

concerned that it would not be in Viridian’s interest to use financial incentives to encourage

rent payment, as the cost incurred would be to the detriment of other services and also

unsustainable.

It all sounds good, but who’s paying for all this? Where does the money come from? OK,

Viridian is a big company, I’m sure they could squeeze something, but if everybody paid their

rent on time... [it would cost a lot]

Male, Littlehampton

It was evident in our interviews that it will be important to control the messaging around such

schemes. In this context, many customers – particularly those who claimed to have a good

history of prompt rent payments – questioned the use of the word “reward”, preferring the

idea of “encouragement”.

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Financial incentives

As discussed in chapter 2, customers typically reported that their rent was the most

important of all the bills that they have to pay. Most claimed that they only got into arrears

due to unforeseen circumstances, such as ill health or a debt. However, there were also

indications from some vulnerable customers that rent arrears are caused by poor financial

management and the challenge of managing many competing claims in the domestic

budget.

It’s like you get a bill in and you know this bill is ‘on demand’ now and you think let me pay

this and I’ll leave that there and then I’ll pay that next week, and then that’s how you get

behind [with rent].

Female, Birmingham

Consequently, the reception to potential incentives to customers to pay rent on time was

highly dependent on which financial customer type (outlined in chapter 2) customers

belonged to. Customers who fell into the ‘Managing with support’ and ‘No trouble paying’

categories tended not to feel the need for incentives of any kind to pay rent on time, and

were often suspicious of the need for financial incentives in particular, doubting that this

would be a good use of resources for Viridian. Customers in the ‘struggling but aware’ group

also tended to feel that they did not need financial incentives to pay their rent on time. Given

their ability to pay their rent dependably, it is likely that financial incentives are unnecessary

for such customers.

Customers in the ‘Struggling and unaware’ group were very receptive to financial incentives

and felt that these would offer them useful encourage to paying rent on time. Those who

were most financially vulnerable, many of whom had been in arrears in the past, were more

positive about financial incentives, as they felt that it would give them the encouragement to

make sure their rent was paid on time. For these customers, there was a strong feeling that

a tangible incentive would help them prioritise changing their behaviour around rent

payment:

[Vouchers and rent discounts] sound like good schemes ‘cause those will keep customers

kind of happy, yeah you’d want to pay on time and involved in that because you know it’ll

benefit you in the long run.

Female, Birmingham

Some even felt that to ensure that the rent money was paid on time, they would be more

motivated to re-allocate the money from “essentials”, for example cutting back on food for

the household, or not using heating or cooking devices to save on utility costs. None in this

group felt that there was any financial ‘slack’ or untapped financial resource from which to

find this money – it would have to come from money that had already been designated

elsewhere in the budget. Nonetheless, incentives would better encourage them to think and

plan ahead, rather than panicking about how to pay only when an eviction notice came.

The threat of eviction comes unexpectedly – the surprise element of it. But the inducements

encourage me to work towards something.

Female, Croydon

A two-week rent ‘holiday’

The most popular incentive among this group was around a two-week rent ‘holiday’ for those

who were not in arrears and paid their rent on time. These customers felt that this would be

an effective way of Viridian offering an incentive as the notion of having two weeks “off”

paying rent was clearly attractive, providing an effective budgeting solution for them at a

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crucial time of year if offered at Christmas. Furthermore, customers of all types were more

positively inclined towards this idea, as it did not involve reducing rents overall and did not

present a perceived threat to Viridian’s income. Colleagues, too, recognised the value of

timing the incentive around Christmas and the potential encouragement this would offer

those customers most likely to default:

If they’re clear of any arrears say three weeks before Christmas then we would give them

two weeks rent. I think that will encourage them – they’ll start paying by direct debits.

Viridian colleague, colleague discussion group

Some in the colleague group, many of whom had concerns about Viridian compromising its

revenue, talked of ways in which the cost of such a scheme could be recouped by spreading

this missing payment over the rent for the remaining 50 weeks a year. Customers were also

prepared to tolerate this compromise because the draw of two weeks without having to pay

rent was so strong. Viridian may wish to explore this option further whether or not it is

included as an incentive to encourage timely rent payment.

Shopping vouchers

The most financially vulnerable customer group were also positive about vouchers to

incentivise regular rent payments, providing that the vouchers were for an amount that

was substantial enough to make a difference. Further, as many reported cutting down on

food shopping costs in order to work towards this goal, the provision of shopping vouchers

was seen to be an appropriate support:

I like the rewards for paying through direct debit, like shopping vouchers ‘cause that can help

take less strain off buying food and stuff for the house.

Female, Birmingham

Rent discounts

Another option discussed was offering discounts to customers who currently pay their rent

on time for six months continuously and do not have arrears. Again, among less vulnerable

customers there was more positivity towards this idea than offering vouchers since it does

not involve offering a rebate to customers, and vulnerable customers were positive as it also

gave them a goal to work towards. But, again, those who were less vulnerable were

concerned about what effect that such a policy would have to Viridian’s income.

Because they’re just gonna get in debt if they keep lowering people’s rent.

Female, Wandsworth

Survey findings on incentives for paying rent on time

The survey found opinion split across affected and control groups of customers on whether

or not discounts for prompt rent payment would be effective or not, shown in the chart below:

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Half of all customers say rent discounts would make them give

higher priority to rent payment

Q Thinking about the future, do you think you would be more or less likely to give

higher priority to paying your rent over other bills if Viridian Housing offered

discounts to those who paid their rent on time, or would it make no difference?

Make no difference

Affected by

Don't know the bedroom Control

5%

tax

More likely

More likely 47% 53%

Less likely 0%

0%

Make no

50%

difference

48% 43%

46%

Don’t know 5%

4%

Less likely (0%)

Base: All customers within control group (100 ) and those affected by the bedroom tax (101)

© Ipsos MORI Version 1 | Internal/client use Only

Source: Ipsos MORI for Viridian Housing

The chart shows that half of customers say discounts would them more likely to pay their

rent on time, but a similar proportion say it would make no difference, with little difference

between affected and control customers. There are some differences between different age

groups; nearly six in ten of those aged 18-54 say that a discount would encourage them to

prioritise their rent compared with around four in ten of those aged 55+, perhaps due to older

respondents being relatively more likely to currently give their rent top priority.

Non-financial incentives

Customers in the ‘Struggling and unaware’ group were very strong supporters of the idea of

receiving help and support from Viridian with financial management and budgeting. Where

customers had been made aware by Viridian of the individual household impact of the

bedroom tax, they tended to be amenable to further support in managing their finances and

tended to feel that this support would need to be offered on an ongoing basis once the

reforms had come in. As an example, one participant suggested that it would be useful to

have a reminder of dates when the rent was due, and another expressed a preference for a

regular telephone call to check on progress and offer support with budgeting and rent

prioritising:

A call every so often just to check to see how you’re getting on with paying it would help I

suppose … I’d find that helpful, because then you can tell me if I’ve got behind or if I need to

pay more.

Female, Birmingham

Tenants who were looking for work also appreciated the potential offer of support in looking

for work. While most were keen that Viridian could help them with the relevant skills, such

as computer skills, one younger tenant also felt that Viridian could also employ tenants.

Support in finding jobs and that. I know there’s not many jobs going but it would be nice,

help with finding jobs.

Male, Birmingham

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5.2. Less popular interventions and incentives

Prize draws

As described, though there was some positivity amongst the most financially vulnerable

towards several financial incentives, there was less support for a prize draw as an effective a

way of encouraging behaviour change, simply due to the low likelihood of benefit:

A prize draw, I’m not interested in that. If you’re going to do a reward scheme you want

something that’s definite, not like ‘I might win’.

Male, Milton Keynes

Those less vulnerable customers who generally paid their rent on time were, however, more

positive about this idea, as it seemed there would a predictable and fixed amount of money

that Viridian would be spending on the incentive.

‘Two tier’ repairs service

There was strong opposition to the idea of having a ‘two tier’ repairs service in which those

who pay rent on time for six months and keep to their tenancy agreement qualify for a

premium service. This was primarily because most customers involved in the qualitative

research interviewed outside of London had a positive impression of the repairs service,

feeling that repairs are carried out quickly, and, according to customers we spoke to, were

undertaken with a high degree of professionalism. This was perhaps the main reason that

this incentive was felt to be unworkable; customers did not feel there was a need for a better

service than the one that currently exists.

Others who objected felt that a ‘two-tier’ system would mean that the ‘basic’ repairs service

would deteriorate as a result, and it was therefore unfair to penalise those who cannot pay

their rent on time in this way (particularly when this is due to circumstances beyond their

control). This led to a discussion of whether the standard service would have a delayed lead

time for emergency repairs, with the presumption that it would be the same. Those who had

experienced a poor repairs service (typically living in London) also felt that this would not be

an effective incentive as they did not believe that a better service was possible from Viridian;

with the suggestion that this may be a hollow promise, due to unreliable contractors:

I think that preferential repair is a bit of a joke when they’re not really hot on the repairs even

now.

Female, Battersea

Satisfaction with Viridian and implications for interventions

Also in the quantitative survey, across the three measures of satisfaction (with the service

provided by Viridian, the repairs service and accommodation), satisfaction is relatively high

among those customers who say they would not consider moving taking responses from the

initial question in our survey before potential interventions were presented. Still, those who

say they would consider moving are also themselves, on balance, positive on these

measures (even on repairs the margin of satisfaction is nearly two to one). And while a fifth

of this group think that they have more bedrooms than they need, the same proportion think

they do not have enough.

These are important findings providing valuable context to understanding responses to

potential interventions. In particular, they show that a significant minority of customers,

especially those based in London, are unhappy with the existing repairs service meaning

that communication of repairs-related interventions will need work hard to be convincing.

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Moreover, most affected customers do not think they are over-occupying and whether they

do or not they do is only weakly related to propensity to consider moving.

Vouchers for home improvements

Those involved in the colleague group discussed the idea of vouchers for home

improvement for those who pay their rent on time. They were positive about this idea, as

they felt that it would both work as an incentive and help Viridian to improve the condition of

its housing stock. However, there was a mixed response from customers. Those who were

least positive about this were more vulnerable customers who preferred the idea of shopping

vouchers, with home improvements being a much lower priority.

Paying rent by direct debit

Other incentives were around paying rent by direct debit. Generally, most customers were

more comfortable with the idea of incentivising setting up a direct debit, rather than

continuing to pay by direct debit. As discussed in section 2, there is a hesitation amongst

many customers to set up direct debits as they are concerned about relinquishing control to

Viridian over when and how they pay their rent, particularly in the ‘Managing with support’

and ‘Struggling but aware’ groups. Some of these customers feared that payment amounts

may increase or decrease without them having any say in the matter. Many are also

concerned that direct debits may ‘bounce’, resulting in them incurring bank charges, and

many we spoke to with direct debits had experienced this:

I’m always paying my bills anyway, but sometimes we have a shortfall and we can’t afford to

pay it and end up getting bank charges because you haven’t put your direct debit in on time

Female, Battersea

With this in mind, those customers who did not have direct debits did not feel that any

incentives would make any difference to their behaviour. Many pay their rent (or will start

paying their shortfall) over the counter in their local post office in a way they have done for a

while, with the implication that they would rather retain this direct control than benefit from an

incentive to set up a direct debit:

I give it to me dad and he goes and pays it cause he has to go and pay his; he has to go to

the Post Office so instead of me queuing up of going to the Housing he just does it for me

Female, Wandsworth

Some customers do not typically understand what difference paying by direct debit makes to

Viridian (namely being able to predict its income). This potentially presents an opportunity for

better information to customers around this risk.

Disincentives for not paying rent on time

Along with ‘carrot’ approaches to encouraging rent payment we also discussed the ‘stick’

methods, in particular removing entitlement to repairs and warning customers of the threat of

eviction. Generally, customers across all financial types opposed the idea of punitive

approaches, as they felt that they were unnecessary and created conflict. Colleagues

agreed, indeed in their experience those who had been threatened with, or subject to, court

action, had simply no means of paying their rent and no other recourse.

We found unanimous opposition among customers to Viridian withdrawing a repairs service.

As well as this being a health and safety issue, it was felt that it would not make sense for

Viridian to act in a way that might threaten its investments, potentially threatening the

upkeep of properties owned by those who could not pay their rent on time, many of whom

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might not be able to afford to keep their properties in a good state anyway. The colleague

group assumed that a basic ‘emergency’ service would still be available:

The emergency ones are within 24 hours anyway, so I don’t think they would be bothered.

Viridian colleague member, colleague discussion

group

Opinions around of the threat of eviction are much more complex. Many disliked the idea of

Viridian presenting its customers with the possibility of eviction, and felt threatened by this.

Those in the colleague group, and a few customers who had been in this situation felt that it

was never a real threat, as no judge or court would ever want to leave a family “out on the

street”, preferring instead to arrange a low repayment over an extended period of time.

However, more widely there was a tacit acceptance that such interventions would be

effective – if not necessarily the most kind or ethical approach – as the fear of being evicted

from their properties would be more likely to spur activity.

The survey findings indicate that only around a third of customers say they would be more

likely to give higher priority to paying their rent if threatened with eviction, with more than half

saying that it would make no difference. Customers affected by the bedroom tax are no more

likely than Viridian’s other customers to say the threat of eviction would make them give

higher priority to paying their rent over other bills. However, it is important to contextualise

this; most customers – whether affected or not – say they already assign a high priority to

their rent payment.

Just over a third say evictions would make them give higher

priority to rent payment

Q

Thinking about the future, do you think you would be more or less likely to give

higher priority to paying your rent over other bills if Viridian Housing evicted those

who did not keep up with the rent, or would it make no difference?

Affected by

Don't know

the bedroom Control

More likely

tax

9%

More likely 34% 38%

36%

Less likely 1%

Make no

difference

56%

Don’t know 10%

0%

53%

9%

Make no difference

54%

1%

Less likely

Base: All customers within control group (100) and those affected by the bedroom tax (101)

© Ipsos MORI Version 1 | Internal/client use Only

Source: Ipsos MORI for Viridian Housing

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5.3. Key findings

Customers who were most receptive to incentives which provided financial ‘goals’ to work for

those who might struggle to pay, but which do not place a financial burden on Viridian, such

as a two-week ‘rent holiday’ at Christmas to reward regular payments. Shopping vouchers

were also welcomed as food shopping was typically reduced to accommodate meeting rent

payments

However, customers were less receptive to:

• Financial incentive schemes which could be perceived to cost the organisation

money, as customers who did not have arrears were widely opposed to the

organisation rewarding customers who already paid on time for meeting their

responsibilities.

• Invoking the possibility of eviction as many felt this would be upsetting and they

already felt they prioritised rent sufficiently.

• Punitive interventions, such as removing repairs services.

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6. Perceptions of incentives and

interventions to encourage downsizing

In this chapter we present findings in respect of customers’ views of and

6. Perceptions of incentives

interventions to encourage downsizing. The chapter covers:

and interventions to

encourage downsizing

• Preferred incentives and interventions; and

• Less well-liked incentives and interventions.

6.1. Preferred interventions and incentives

We found that responses to the incentives around moving were dependent on which

attitudinal customer type participants belonged to. Those ‘Ready to move’ and ‘Short term

stay and pay-ers’ were very receptive to incentives on this issue. However, ‘Long-term stay

and payers’ were not swayed by incentives of any sort. Rather, they tended to remain

adamant that they would not move, and typically did not find any of the incentives suggested

relevant to them.

Helping customers to find the right property

As outlined in Chapter 4, for customers who were keen to move either straight away or in the

longer-term, finding a suitable property was critical. ‘Suitable’ meant different things to

different customers, and all had specific needs which they felt extremely strongly about. All

of those interviewed reported a strong desire for support from Viridian in helping them

identify the right property to meet their needs. Customers were typically aware of the transfer

system and many in this group had begun to apply for a transfer; they were less aware of

other opportunities to network for house-swaps or the possibility that Viridian could organise

a transfer to a home with another HA or into a LA property. For some this was an important

factor because they felt that the Viridian’s available housing stock in their area would not

meet their needs.

I asked if they had two-bedroom housing in this area to move to … but they don’t have them,

and not with a downstairs bathroom … they offered us one in Yardley but that is far from the

bus [for my daughter’s school] and bad for shopping … you can’t use a taxi because they

are expensive

Male, Birmingham

Customers who wanted to move wanted support in looking for suitable homes: through

support in using the transfer system (such as help searching and using the website among

older customers), and through the provision of additional suggestions in finding the right

home and regular contact and support in finding their home.

[If Viridian want us to move they should] help us to find somewhere. It’s all right when you

pick the phone up and say to them etc. etc. But then they put the phone down and they

forget about it.

Male, Milton Keynes

The importance of personalised communication

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As an example, one customer reported that he was considering a three-way-swap but this

was proving difficult as he had to wait for the person he wanted to swap with to find a

suitable home. Another pair of participants (overleaf) felt that they needed as much

information as possible about all eligible flats in the area, and that this information needs to

be personalised. As discussed, meeting individual requirements was highly important to

customers; they typically felt very strongly about their personal housing requirements:

F: I suppose they could, they could help me look for more places, instead of me just

looking on Home Swap, if they wanted this property then they could come up with properties

as well.

M: If they could try and match what mum wants, obviously you’re never going to get

exactly what you want. But what she wants, it’d help if they could try and match it, not just

go and put her anywhere, if they listen to what she’s saying and what she’s looking for, if

they can try and match that it’d be a big help because obviously they know more about flats

and that.

Wandsworth

Expectations about the quality of alternative accommodation

Further to this, it was evident that in some cases, meeting customers’ expectations around

the quality of homes may be challenging for Viridian, particularly where customers were

ready to move or considering moving only because of the bedroom tax reforms and not for

other reasons. These participants tended to feel that they were being compelled to move

when they had not expected to, so had an expectation of compensation: they felt they

should be able to ‘trade off’ the loss of an extra bedroom with another corresponding

advantage in the quality of their housing.

I mean we are downsizing so they’ve got to meet us halfway and not as we are doing a kind

of a favour really … so downsizing you think they’d listen to what you kind of are looking to

go into.

Male, Wandsworth

As an example of this, one participant in Birmingham suggested that if his family was to

move to smaller home, it should be in a better area and with better-quality windows which

would mean that the house was less cold than their current one.

Financial assistance in moving home

For those who were ‘Ready to move’ and among the ‘Short term stay and pay-ers’,

incentives which helped cover the cost of moving and ensuring that their new home would

be clean and well-decorated were seen as very important and were considered attractive in

terms of encouraging moving. Some had not thought about the costs of moving, so the offer

of £500 to cover these costs was welcome. For others, the issue was at the top of their

minds.

If they could help with removal costs and that … it’s going to be hard as well as paying for

removal costs.

Male, Birmingham

Those who said they were already interested in moving did not need the additional

enticement of a large cash incentive. Indeed some explicitly rejected the idea that a cash

incentive would encourage them to move.

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Viridian do an incentive payment for downsizing. If you downsize from a three-bed to a twobed

you get £4,000… if they offered me [a suitable property] tomorrow and they kept the

£4,000 I would still go. [Our decision] has nothing to do with the money

Male, Milton Keynes

Rather, they felt that the cost of moving and redecorating would absorb the large part of a

cash incentive anyway, and they would prefer the support. Where redecorating was

concerned, customers who were interested in moving felt strongly that Viridian should

ensure that a new home was clean, with good or new carpets and windows in good repair. It

was also important to tenants who were interested in moving that any vouchers provided for

decoration were of sufficient value to cover the required costs.

It has to be enough … They gave us £50 … but we went to B&Q and spend over £150

Male, Birmingham

There was a strong sense among these customers that support with these costs would

create a lot of positive feeling and would allow customers to begin a new life in a new home

on a good footing. This was seen as important – particularly in the ‘Short-term stay and pay’

group – as many were concerned about moving to a new area. One customer we spoke to

suggested that writing off rent arrears would also contribute to this sense of a positive new

start:

Costs to move house and direct removal support – I like that … and writing off the arrears, I

think that would help. If you knew that you could move straightaway into somewhere and

you didn’t have the rent arrears, then that would be a big help, then you’d feel like you are

starting fresh, a new home.

Male, Birmingham

Other support from Viridian

Other customers in these groups reported that they would welcome support from Viridian in

changing over bills, identifying the services, such as schools, which they needed locally and

introductions to neighbours in the new area they had moved to.

I don’t want my daughter to move schools, she’s in Year 9 and going to go into Year 10 – so

that’s very helpful the support to move the schools if I want to move …The change in helping

you with bills and the decorating of the home – yeah, I think all [those] will help

Female, Lambeth

6.2. Less popular interventions and incentives

The qualitative research also highlighted some less effective incentives for those who were

considering moving. A key issue was that many participants were aware of Viridian’s

previous cash offers to downsize, meaning that for some customers receiving cash as an

incentive remained important. However, it was important in the sense that it needed to cover

the cost of removals, decorating and ensuring that fixtures and fittings were of a high

standard – customers perceived moving as being expensive, and saw the cash incentive as

compensation. Beyond this though, some customers saw the provision of a large cash

incentive as being inappropriate, and those who were not keen to move at all – the ‘Long

term stay and pay-ers’ – reported that cash incentives would not influence them at all.

I just think that figure is ridiculous, because everyone’s so obsessed with money and I don’t

think you should be. You shouldn’t be leaving in terms of the amount you get … I just think

it’s a bribe.

Female, Lambeth

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Communicating to customers about moving

Regarding communications around messaging around moving, customers were unsure

about the use of emotive messages, and most of those who were determined to stay and

pay were unconvinced that it would have an effect on them. Customers found it challenging

to imagine how the message would be conveyed from the materials we provided them with;

this type of intervention would benefit from more through message-testing with customers

using sample materials. 3

Propensity to move in the survey

Like the qualitative research, the survey also underlines the emotional and practical

attachments many customers have to locality and shows that these are more strongly felt by

those with a higher propensity to stay in existing accommodation. At the same time, it also

shows that some interventions have potential to at least encourage customers to reconsider

moving.

The chart below presents the percentage of affected customers who say they would

definitely or probably consider moving to more affordable accommodation and the

percentage who would probably not or definitely not consider moving in response to four

different propositions. It can be seen that all but one ‘swing’ some affected customers

towards considering moving. The exception is (b) which makes little difference to affected

customers willingness to consider moving.

Interventions/incentives swing some affected customers

towards considering moving

Q If you could no longer afford the rent here, would you consider moving to

somewhere more affordable, or not?

% definitely/probably consider moving

% defin itely not/probably not consider

moving

37

57

Q If you could no longer afford the rent here, would you consider moving to

somewhere more affordable, or not…if Viridian Housing…?

(a) ...offered you a one- off financial incentive to

move into alternative accommodation?

(b) ...offered support to move you into alternative

accommodation, for example by paying for removal

fees or helping to rearrange your utility bills?

(c) ...offered to help adapt your new accommodation

to meet your specific needs?

37

46

48

47

48

54

(d) …said they would evict you from your current

accommodation if you did not keep up with the rent?

39

46

Base: All customers affected by the bedroom tax (101)

© Ipsos MORI Version 1 | Internal/client use Only

Source: Ipsos MORI for Viridian Housing

3 We presented the following suggestions to participants:

• Information leaflets suggesting that other people with an extra bedroom are moving – e.g. HMRC’s

Self Assessment campaign told the target audience that 85% of people had returned their form,

leading to an increased response rate

• Information leaflets with an emotional appeal – e.g. asking people to free up under-occupied homes

so that their children/ grandchildren can have somewhere to live

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The chart shows that each of (a), (c) and (d) would nudge approaching half of the affected

customers to consider moving, up from the 37% established earlier in the interview. It can

also be seen that (a) and (c) are as equally motivating as (d), generating similar proportions

of customers who say they would definitely or probably consider moving, but both are also

apparently more demotivating too.

The result is that the largest gap between those who would and who would not consider

moving occurs for (d) but this is partly because 15% say ‘don’t know’, which perhaps

suggests that customers are unsure whether or how this would work in practice and how it

would affect them. Related to this, it is also worth noting something not shown on the chart

above; the proportion of affected customers who say they would definitely consider moving

is higher for (d) than it is for any other intervention, with more than one quarter admitting that

they would consider moving if threatened with eviction for not keeping up with the rent.

The sample size and confidence intervals involved mean that we have to be careful

attaching too much weight to the percentage point differences between customer responses

to the four interventions (and we haven’t quantitatively tested the potential impact of multiple

interventions). But we can conclude that (a), (c), and (d) have evident potential benefits to

Viridian in seeking to motivate downsizing.

On first glance, the relative lack of interest in b) appears to challenge the qualitative findings

inasmuch as those in depth interviews tended to respond positively to support in moving to

alternative accommodation. However, this finding might reflect the perception that

assistance with moving was seen more as a barrier to be removed than an actual incentive,

and that any financial incentive would need to be offered in addition to this support.

While the survey shows the potential of the interventions it should be remembered that we

asked customers about the extent to which they would consider moving. It is a snapshot of

opinion among a group with different levels of knowledge about changes and considerations

might change in time as more information about impacts are better understood and options

are presented. Still, the survey, like the qualitative research, indicates the general reluctance

on the part of most customers to downsize and their preference for economising and staying.

As well as pointing to the potential for the interventions to make a difference to the take-up of

downsizing options and the likely qualifications and conditions customers will attach to these,

the survey data also provides some evidence on how these might play out among different

customer groups (within the confines of small base sizes):

• those who say they run out of money before the end of the month hardly ever/never

are more likely than those who do, to say in response to (d) that they would

definitely/probably consider moving;

there are not strong differences in responses to the interventions between customers

in larger households and those in smaller ones, between those in work and those not

• age is more discriminating – customers in younger and middle age groups are much

more certain that all of the interventions would mean that they consider moving than

those aged 55+;

• women are more likely than men to say they would consider moving in response to

all but (d).

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6.3. Key findings

The research showed the following interventions were very positively received:

• Help and support in using the transfer system

• Suggestions of wider options around transfers to help customers find a home that

meets their individual needs

• Financial support to cover the costs of moving and decorating

• Writing off arrears so that customers can have a ‘fresh start’

• Ensuring the quality of the new home in respect of fixtures and fittings, and taking

into account customers’ raised expectations given the ‘trade-off’ they feel they are

making by downsizing

• Help and support in finding new schools where relevant, changing over utility bills,

and familiarisation with neighbours and the local area

However, it also demonstrated that Viridian should avoid offering large cash incentives to

move as it was evident that those who wanted to move were happy to do so regardless of a

cash incentive. Moreover, those who were considering moving where more concerned about

the costs of moving, and those who did not want to move were not interested in the cash

incentive.

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7. Conclusion and recommendations

7.1. Key findings

7. Conclusion and

recommendations

Overall, our qualitative and survey research underlines that taking into account the

differences among Viridian’s customers will be a pre-condition for a successful response to

the welfare reforms. There are circumstantial and attitudinal elements to this; customers’

levels of financial resilience and capability are important drivers of how receptive they are

likely to be to initiatives to encourage timely rent paying, while their attitudes to moving are

key to encouraging people to downsize.

The research uncovered real variation in how much customers knew about the bedroom tax

and welfare reform in general. While most had more to say about their concerns for others

as a result of Universal Credit, many were concerned about the effect of this, and the

bedroom tax, on their own circumstances.

The source of information about whether and how they would be affected was crucial in

determining what action was taken, and will be taken, as a result. Personalised contact is

preferable and more likely to lead to a better understanding of the changes, and perhaps

making preparations for them. Many customers had received information from Viridian

directly and this was welcome, building on a generally positive perceptions of their landlord.

However, this was not universal, and there were marked differences in how much London

customers had been informed about the changes and, more generally, their views of

Viridian.

In terms of dealing with the bedroom tax, we identified three customer segments; those who

are ready to move, those who will stay and pay in the short term and those who will stay

and pay in the long term. Many factors impact on the willingness to move; a ‘suitable’

property is usually key. This will invariably be nearby and will often include an additional

feature as a substitute for the missing bedroom. There is also, however, variation in the

definition of ‘suitable’ – for many this is simply the presence of an existing factor, such as a

garden or modern decor but not for everyone – and this underlines the importance of

personalised and tailored support from Viridian to its customers.

Levels of financial resilience also shaped customers ability to respond to the changes.

Those who were working and those who were able to draw on financial support from family

were more likely to have stronger financial resilience. It was evident that those households

which were unable to increase their income were less able to sustain paying the shortfall

arising from the bedroom tax, while those with greater levels of support (family, friends living

locally) may be able to ‘hold out’ for longer.

Those who fall into the third category – those who will stay and pay in the long term – are

unwilling to move because they are linked into a support network and worry that a move will

remove them from this. Many are older customers who have not moved for many years, and

are unprepared to be ‘forced’ to move away from properties that they are emotionally and

practically attached to.

All customers claimed that paying their rent was the top priority and that they aim to always

pay this bill on time if they possibly can. Those who able to plan and manage their finances

well were less likely to default on their rent, although even among confident and capable

customers we found several who prefer to pay their bills in cash in person and are wary of

transacting online, with important challenges for the roll-out of Universal Credit.

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7.2. Recommendations for a successful incentive system

Encouraging customers to pay rent on time

A key starting point to encouraging customers to pay rent on time and ensuring efficiency in

interventions seems to be identifying those customers with the lowest levels of financial

resilience and capability. Otherwise, financial incentives could be expended on customers

who are much less likely to default. Those customers who were likely to default were

responsive to the following interventions:

• An early face-to-face or telephone explanation of the precise household impact

of welfare reforms (bedroom tax in the short-term but extending to UC in the

medium/long-term) to help customers understand their liability, the exact nature of

the impact, and an opportunity to plan for the changes 4 :

o For those with weaker financial capability, support in household budgeting

and financial planning is likely to improve ability to pay rents on time.

o These customers were also keen to receive support in looking for work.

• Clear information to customers about their responsibilities: for example,

information on when and how to pay rents, and how much to pay.

o For those with weaker financial capability, regular contact (possibly by

telephone) to remind customers of responsibilities and discuss any difficulties

in paying will complement this.

• Incentives which provided financial ‘goals’ to work for those who might struggle

to pay, but which do not place a financial burden on Viridian, such as a two-week

‘rent holiday’ at Christmas to reward regular payments.

o Shopping vouchers were also welcomed as food shopping was typically

reduced to accommodate meeting rent payments

Based on our research, Viridian should avoid the following in incentivising rent payment:

• Using financial incentive schemes which could be perceived to cost Viridian

money as customers who did not have arrears were widely opposed to the

organisation rewarding customers who already paid on time for meeting their

responsibilities.

• Invoking the possibility of eviction without careful consideration of messaging

as customers were already widely concerned about this issue (and the survey shows

that almost all customers say they are currently prioritising rent). Although many

customers felt that a reminder of this issue may provoke customers to prioritise rents,

it seemed unlikely that raising the possibility of eviction would make those who were

most likely to default more able to pay as it did not address their lack of financial

resilience or capability.

• Punitive interventions, in particular removing entitlement to repairs and warning

customers of the threat of eviction were widely disliked. Generally, customers across

all financial types opposed the idea of such approaches as they were considered

unlikely to make any difference – those who could not afford to pay would still be

unable to do so, and such actions simply bred animosity and resentment. That said,

4 This finding is supported by the work of Collard et al (2012) conducted with social housing tenants in

Solihull - accessible at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/geography/research/pfrc/themes/fincap/quids-in.html

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many who had defaulted in the past had been encouraged to repay what was owed

due to the stark threat of eviction, and there was a belief that such an intervention

can be successful (albeit ethically questionable).

Incentivising direct debits may require additional consideration, potentially taking into

account each customer’s age and also whether they have a sufficient dependable source of

income for their needs or regularly have difficulties in paying bills. Older customers and

those who are regularly in debt tend to be opposed to direct debits. It may also be worth

considering communicating the advantages of direct debits to these groups and providing

support to build confidence in money management, for example in supporting older

customers in using online banking.

Encouraging customers to downsize

The main challenge in respect of encouraging customers to downsize is to identify

customers who are already ready to move or who would consider moving in the short-term;

Viridian needs to capitalise on these propensities. Customers who are unwilling to move at

all and are determined to stay and pay might be doing so because of emotional rather than

rational considerations, or might be perfectly able to ‘stay and pay’.

Again, the starting point intervention is likely to be one which enables consideration of the

viability and sustainability of staying and, again, an early face-to-face or telephone

explanation of the precise household impact of welfare reforms would help. This would allow

customers to understand whether they would be affected by the reforms, the exact nature of

the impact and an opportunity to plan for the changes.

The survey research points to the potential for three of the four interventions tested to boost

the extent to which customers are willing to at least consider moving. The qualitative

research showed the following interventions were very positively received:

• Help and support in using the transfer system

• Suggestions of wider options around transfers to help customers find a home that

meets their individual needs

• Financial support to cover the costs of moving and decorating

• Ensuring the quality of the new home in respect of fixtures and fittings, and

taking into account customers’ raised expectations given the ‘trade-off’ they feel they

are making by downsizing

• Help and support in finding new schools where relevant, changing over utility bills,

and familiarisation with neighbours and the local area

Viridian should avoid offering large cash incentives to move as it was evident that those

who wanted to move were happy to do so regardless of a cash incentive. Moreover, those

who did not want to move were not interested in the cash incentive, though there were also

some who were considering moving but concerned about the costs of doing so.

Viridian should also give consideration to where the two customer typologies around rent

payment and moving home overlap. In both typologies we have identified customer groups

who are most likely to prove problematic to encourage to move: the ‘Struggling and unaware’

and ‘Struggling but aware’ financial types, and the ‘Long-term stay and pay-ers’.

Where these financial and attitudinal characteristics coalesce, it will be most important of all

to target support in raising financial capability or offer support to increase financial

resources. This is because this group are unlikely to respond to the challenges presented by

the bedroom tax by considering moving, are likely to be resistant to interventions and

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incentives around moving, yet are also very likely to default on their payments as the

increased shortfalls strain their household budgets.

Communicating with customers

Regarding communicating incentives to pay rent on time and downsize, the research

suggests that customers are likely to be sensitive to the tone and language of

communications. This means that messaging must be carefully considered:

• Customers prefer incentives to pay rent on time that do not appear to offer discounts

for meeting their responsibilities alone: they tended to feel that paying rent on time is

an obligation and should not necessarily be rewarded

• Although customers felt that being presented with the possibility of eviction may be

likely to incentivise customers to pay rent on time, they also felt that the tone should

not induce fear as most are already aware of the possibility of eviction

• Around moving, customers who were considering moving (‘Short term stay and

payers’) were sensitive that they were not moving voluntarily and felt the need for

compensation, typically in the quality of their home. For this reason they were

receptive to the idea of a ‘fresh start’ rather than ‘downsizing’ – they wanted to feel

positive about the move, more that it was on their terms and less that it was enforced

• Related to this, customers also felt strongly that they should have a choice around

where they lived; they felt their home should be “suitable” on their individual terms. It

therefore may be worth considering designing and presenting options to move for

customers around a narrative of ‘choice’ rather than ‘allocation’.

7.3. Recommendations for how Viridian can protect its income

and its customers

In general, our qualitative research found customers tending to have minimal understanding

of how changing their behaviour could mutually benefit Viridian and its customers, although

they claimed to understand the importance of paying rents on time as most felt that paying

rent was their top priority and that they knew eviction was a possibility if they did not do so.

For example, they did not understand how direct debits could contribute to guaranteeing

Viridian’s income, and, although there was some understanding that there was limited

housing stock hence it was necessary for under-occupiers to move, a connection to potential

difficulties for Viridian was not typically made.

The low awareness of the challenges facing Viridian in the welfare reforms naturally

presents challenges with regard to choosing and communicating incentives and

interventions; Viridian must therefore consider carefully how to communicate the importance

of protecting its income to customers.

With regard to protecting customers, the evidence suggests that it will be important for

Viridian to make efforts to identify the most vulnerable customers and offer suitable tailored

support. These customers are likely to be the most constrained in responding to the

changes, and will include: those who are furthest from the labour market; those with weak

financial capability; those with young children and many competing financial demands in the

household.

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Appendix 1 – Discussion Guide

Viridian Welfare Reform Research

Customer Discussion Guide – FINAL

1. Research scope and objectives:

The research has two key aims: to generate insights into the experiences and perspectives of

customers whose current situation is relevant to the welfare reforms, and to shape Viridian’s policy

responses including incentives for downsizing and rent payments.

The research will therefore answer the following key questions:

• What are the challenges and problems faced by customers affected by the welfare reforms,

in particular those affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ changes?

o What are their needs given the reforms – in respect of financial, social and any other

relevant support?

o How can Viridian support these customers, and how open are they to such support?

• How can Viridian best protect its income and ensure customers pay their rent given the

changes?

o To what extent are customers willing to ‘stay and pay’ and why? Are they really able

to manage this?

o What interventions will be most effective in encouraging customers to pay rents on

time given the changes?

• What would encourage customers affected by the changes to move to a new home and

why?

o What are the reasons behind reticence or propensity to move for different affected

client groups?

o What interventions (financial and otherwise) would be most effective in helping

customers who would like to or need to move to do so?

o What are their experiences or perceptions of using the transfer system?

More generally, the qualitative research will be concerned with exploring the motivational basis of

customers’ decisions and their response to a range of potential interventions.

This discussion guide aims to elicit the specialised knowledge of Viridian customer facing colleagues

on these issues given their insights as key stakeholders in working with customers and delivering

relevant support services.

2. Structure of the discussion

Notes Guide Sections Guide

Timings

1. Introductions and

background

Explains the purpose and ground rules for the discussion,

and covers what they do, where they work, roles and

responsibilities.

10 mins

2. Initial responses to

changes to the

Explores participants’ knowledge and awareness of the

social rented sector welfare reforms in general, and

15 mins

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welfare landscape

3. The implications of

the ‘bedroom tax’

and Universal Credit

4. Incentives and

interventions

5. Conclusion and

final thoughts

investigates their views of the changes and which

households they feel will be affected. In this section we

will consider some of the wider/ longer-term changes to

the overall welfare system.

A more detailed discussion of the potential impacts of the

‘bedroom tax’ and Universal Credit and how customers will

respond to the changes, particularly in respect to paying

rents/ arrears and transfers

We will explore the participants’ own and other

suggestions on incentives and interventions to test with

customers: potential triggers to change their behaviours

and current financial behaviours with regards to their

housing costs, and the alternatives to financial transfers

Final reflections and key thoughts from the discussion.

25 mins

25 mins

15 mins

We use several conventions to explain to you how this guide will be used, described below.

Questions

Bold = Question or read out statement: Questions that will be asked

to the participant if relevant. Not all questions are asked during

fieldwork based on the moderator’s view of progress.

• Bullet = prompt: Prompts are not questions – they are there to

provide guidance to the moderator if required.

• CAPITALISED INSTRUCTIONS ARE TO THE MODERATOR IN

MANAGING THE GROUP

(timing in minutes)

Notes and Prompts

This area is used to

summarise what we are

discussing, provides

informative notes, and

some key prompts for the

moderator

Typically, the researcher will ask questions and use the prompts to

guide where necessary. Not all questions or prompts will necessarily

be used in an interview

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1. Introductions and background

• Thank participants for taking part

• Introduce self, Ipsos MORI – independent research organisation

commissioned by Viridian

• Explain aims of project – to explore the impacts of welfare

reform and help explore how customers can be encouraged to

pay rents on time and move home if they are under-occupying

• Explain scope of project – seven further small group discussions

with affected customers in a range of locations

• Explain that their views and ideas will help shape Viridian’s

housing policies – particularly on moving and downsizing - and

their contributions/ time are highly valued

• Explain confidentiality and MRS guidelines

• Get permission to digitally record – transcribe for quotes, no

detailed attribution and not passed on to Viridian

I’d like to start by understanding more about what you do. Can you tell

me a little bit about…? MODERATOR TO ASK ALL IN TURN:

• Where you live?

• Who you live with?

It would also be helpful for me to know about whether you’re working

at the moment…? MODERATOR TO ASK ALL IN TURN

• IF WORKING: What kind of work do you do? For how many

hours a week?

• IF NOT WORKING: What kinds of do you do in a typical day?

10 mins

Orientates

participants gets

them prepared to

take part in the

discussion and

establishes their

area of

knowledge/

expertise

Outlines the ‘rules’

of the group

(including those

we are required to

tell them about

under MRS and

Data Protection

Act guidelines)

These questions

provide useful

background which

will help us probe

on barriers/

enablers to

responding to the

changes

Have you ever moved recently – and why?

What do you think of your current home?

• What kind of place is it

• How long have you live there?

• What do you think of it?

• Do you feel it meets your needs?

• Can you explain why?

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2. Initial responses to changes to the welfare landscape 15 mins

I’d now like to speak to you about welfare reforms in general.

First of all, have you heard anything about the forthcoming changes

to housing benefit?

• What have you heard?

• Do you know of any changes that would affect you or others?

PROBE FOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE FOLLOWING:

• Size criteria/ penalty for under-occupying (the ‘bedroom tax’)

• The household benefit cap

• Universal Credit (introducing a single monthly integrated benefit

for working age households, both in and out of work, paid direct

to claimants rather than to the landlord)

• Changes and cuts to support for Council Tax (and devolving

power to local authorities to design and administer this benefit)

• Deductions in housing benefit made for customers whose

household includes adult members other than their partner

(non-dependants) have been increased.

Thinking in particular about the changes to the size criteria (also

sometimes called ‘bedroom tax’)…

• What have you heard about this?

• Where did you hear about it? How useful was it?

• Do you expect this change will affect you?

• What are your thoughts about this change?

Explores

participants’

knowledge and

awareness of the

social rented

sector welfare

reforms in general,

and investigates

their views of the

changes and

which households

they feel will be

affected. Also

explores initial

ideas on how

customers might

respond to

changes

What about the other changes?

• What have you heard about them?

• Where did you hear about them? How useful was it?

• Do you expect this change will affect you?

• What are your thoughts about this change?

Are you concerned about any of these changes?

• Which ones?

• What are your concerns?

Have you sought any advice?

• From whom?

• Was it helpful?

These starred

questions are

important –

explore in depth

* Have you thought about what you might do if you start receiving less

benefit (due to the ‘bedroom tax’, Council Tax benefit cuts or benefit

cap)?

• How easy or difficult do you think you will find it to manage your

finances when the changes come in?

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* Have you thought about what you might do when your benefits are

delivered differently – in a single monthly payment, including housing

benefit (under Universal Credit)?

• How easy or difficult do you think you will find it to manage your

finances when the changes come in?

*Have you made any plans to deal with the changes?

• IF YES: How are you starting to plan?

• What are you doing differently as a result?

• PROBE ON: CUTTING EXPENDITURE, FINDING (MORE)

PAID WORK, BORROWING MONEY, TAKING A LODGER,

LOOKING TO MOVE

• Why will you be doing that? Can you explain your plans?

• IF NOT: Why not? EXPLORE IN DEPTH

• What do you think will happen to you given the

changes?

• Would anything help you make plans?

Are you planning to stay where you are and pay the extra rent

yourself?

• Do you think you will be able to manage this? Will you have

difficulty doing this?

• How are you planning to manage this?

What do you think is the impact on Viridian might be if people are

unable to or do not pay their rent on time?

• Would it affect their finances?

• Would it affect their services?

Could Viridian help you in managing to pay your rent and avoid arrears

given all the changes that are happening?

• What could they do?

• Would you be happy for them to help?

BRIEFLY GAIN SOME INITIAL IDEAS FROM PARTICIPANTS AND NOTE

DOWN TO EXPLORE IN DEPTH LATER IN THE DISCUSSION

Do you know about any of the support services Viridian offers which

might help you given the forthcoming changes?

• PROBE ON AWARENESS OF WELFARE ADVISORS

• Has anyone spoken to you about the changes, or have you

received any information?

• Do you see Viridian as an important source of information?

Why?

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• What are they doing differently?

• Is there anything else they could be doing?

3. The implications of the ‘bedroom tax’ 25 mins

We’ve spoken briefly about the bedroom tax already, and I’d now like

to explore this change to welfare in more depth. I want to focus on

two key issues: rent payment and moving

FOCUSING ON RENT PAYMENT

Given the ‘bedroom tax’ changes and the fact that housing benefit will

soon be paid directly to you rather than to your landlord, how easy or

difficult do you think it will be for you to pay your rent on time?

• Why/ why not?

• How will you manage to do this?

• Are there any practical barriers to you doing so?

• Any reasons you might not be motivated to pay on time?

A more detailed

discussion of the

potential impacts

of the ‘bedroom

tax’ and how

customers will

respond to the

changes,

particularly in

respect to paying

rents/ arrears and

transfers

MODERATOR TO NOTE INITIAL IDEAS

Do you think knowledge about paying on time might be an issue? Is

there anything you might struggle to know about which might be

important given the changes?

• What kinds of things?

• PROMPT ON UNAWARE OF CHANGES; UNAWARE OF

REQUIREMENTS OF PAYING IN TENANCY AGREEMENT;

MANAGING WITH SINGLE MONTHLY PAYMENT

What about skills in managing money and dealing with arrears?

Would this be an issue?

• PROMPT ON FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT SKILLS, DIFFICULTIES

OF MANAGING ON LESS INCOME, FINANCIAL RESILIENCE IF

REQUIRED, PLANNING FINANCES, BUDGETING

• How organised would you say you are in managing your

finances?

• Do you feel confident in dealing with your finances

generally?

• IF NOT ALREADY COVERED: Would you find it hard to

manage if your benefit was paid monthly rather than

weekly?

• How would you feel about managing your benefit claim

online?

• How often do you find you run out of money by the end of

the week or month?

• How do you think you would cope with needed to find more

money to cover the rent?

This addresses

‘psychological

capability’ in the

COM-B framework

This addresses

‘physical

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• Would you need any help? What kind?

Do you think you might have problems in having the physical ability to

pay their rent on time?

• Can you think of any physical reasons you might not be able

to pay on time?

• Or any physical reasons other people might have?

• PROMPT ON UNABLE TO READ LETTERS ABOUT RENT

(LITERACY/ ESOL); UNABLE TO VISIT OFFICE TO PAY RENT IF

APPROPRIATE

Do you think you will make any changes to how you manage paying

your rent now that the welfare changes are coming in?

• Will paying the rent be a priority for you – and why/ why

not?

• What else might be more of a priority in the household – and

why?

• PROMPT ON: UNWILLING TO ECONOMISE/ MAKE CHANGES

TO LIFESTYLE; NO SLACK IN BUDGET; NO INTEREST ON

ARREARS SO NOT WORRIED;

• What do you think might happen if you don’t pay your rent?

Do you think you will want to stay where you are and pay the extra

rent?

• Why will you want to do this? PROBE IN DEPTH

• Will they be able to manage this?

• Why/ why not?

• IF YES: How long will you be able to manage for?

• IF NO: What will you do?

Have any of you made a conscious decision not to pay the extra, even

thought you want to stay where you are?

• Why/ why not?

• PROMPT ON: HOPING THE PROBLEM WILL GO AWAY; FEAR;

BELIEVE ARREARS WILL BE WRITTEN OFF; THINKING SHORT

TERM AS BUDGET MONTH TO MONTH

Are there any other practical barriers to you paying your rent on time

when the changes come in?

• PROMPT ON: NO BANK ACCOUNT; TOO BUSY TO DEAL WITH

RENT/ ARREARS; NO ONLINE ACCESS

Have you heard anyone tell you anything about what might happen if

you don’t pay on time now that the welfare changes are coming in?

• What have they said?

• What do you think of this?

capability’ in the

COM-B framework

This addresses

‘automatic

motivation’ in the

COM-B framework

which relates to

unconscious

motivation

This addresses

‘reflective

motivation’ in the

COM-B framework

which relates to

reasoned/ rational

motivation

This addresses

‘social and

physical

opportunity’ in the

COM-B framework

which relates to

the existence of

infrastructure

This addresses

‘psychological

capability’ in the

COM-B framework

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FOCUSING ON MOVING

Thinking now about moving house, do you think knowledge about

transfers, moving home and the ‘bedroom tax’ might be an issue for

you? Is there anything you feel you don’t know about which might be

important given the changes?

• What kinds of things?

• Do you know the process of how apply for a transfer?

• How difficult would you find it to do this? Why?

What about skills in using the transfer system or looking for somewhere

else to live – perhaps another type of exchange or moving out of social

housing altogether. Would this be an issue?

• How confident do you feel in using the transfer system?

Why?

• How confident do you feel in looking for another place to

live?

• PROMPT ON LACK OF ONLINE SKILLS; DISABILITY; LOW

LITERACY; ESOL IF APPROPRIATE

• What kind of help might you need in using it?

• Would you be happy for Viridian to provide this help?

How do you feel about potentially moving home? PROBE IN DEPTH

• Can you explain why?

• Are there any advantages? Any disadvantages?

• PROMPT ON: ATTACHMENT TO HOME/ LOCATION

• MODERATOR TO ENSURE REASONS/ RATIONALE IS

EXPLAINED IN DEPTH

Still thinking about how you feel about moving home, are there any

practical reasons you think it might be a good idea – or might be a bad

idea? PROBE IN DEPTH

• Can you explain why?

• IF APPROPRIATE PROMPT ON: NEED SPARE ROOM FOR

CARER/ OLDER OR NON-RESIDENT CHILD; DON’T BELIEVE

SUITABLE HOMES ARE AVAILABLE IN RIGHT AREA; LIVE IN

ADAPTED PROPERTY; HAVE INVESTED IN DECORATING/

RENOVATIONS

• MODERATOR TO ENSURE REASONS/ RATIONALE IS

EXPLAINED IN DEPTH

Are there any external barriers stopping you moving – or making you

think it might be a good idea?

• Can you explain why they are important?

• PROMPT ON: WORK/ SCHOOL/ SUPPORT ARE CLOSE TO

CURRENT HOME; THINK TRANSFER LIST IS TOO LONG; CAN’T

66

This addresses

‘physical

capability’ in the

COM-B framework

This addresses

‘automatic

motivation’ in the

COM-B framework

which relates to

unconscious

motivation

This addresses

‘reflective

motivation’ in the

COM-B framework

which relates to

reasoned/ rational

motivation

This addresses

‘social and

physical

opportunity’ in the

COM-B framework

which relates to

the existence of

infrastructure

TRY AND

COMPLETE THIS

PROJECTIVE

EXERCISE WITH

PARTICIPANTS IF

POSSIBLE

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ACCESS INTERNET; HAVE LOOKED AND NO SUITABLE HOMES

AVAILABLE

*I’d now like to talk about what it would take for you to feel

comfortable about moving to a smaller home. MODERATOR TO HAND

OUT PAPER. I’d like you all to spend a few minutes writing down what

you think your ideal smaller home would be – and what would make

you move there. Think about:

• Where it would be

• What kind of home it would be

• What it would be like inside

• What help you might need to move

• What, if any, financial incentives would motivate you to move

MODERATOR TO DISCUSS ANSWERS WITH PARTICIPANTS

IN GENERAL

Given all we’ve talked about, how important are the financial aspects

of the ‘bedroom tax’ changes to you?

• Are you motivated to do something in response because

you’ll now have to contribute more to paying your rent?

• What will you do? And when?

• Why is the financial aspect important?

What about the ‘emotional’ aspects of the changes?

• Are you motivated to do something in response because of

how you feel now you might need to move?

• What will you do? And when?

• Why is this aspect important when you’re considering what

you do next?

And what about the ‘practical’ aspects of the changes?

• Do the changes raise any practical issues for you which mean

you’re going to make some changes?

• What will you do? And when?

• Why are these aspects important when you’re considering

what you do next?

Given the issues we’ve discussed, what do you think Viridian should be

doing to help you?

• How can they help you plan for the changes in paying rents and

managing arrears?

• How can they help you in arranging transfers or finding out more

about them?

• Do you want Viridian to help?

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BRIEFLY GAIN SOME INITIAL IDEAS FROM PARTICIPANTS AND NOTE

DOWN TO EXPLORE IN DEPTH LATER IN THE DISCUSSION

4. Incentives and interventions 25 mins

The ‘bedroom tax’ poses some important challenges for Viridian – in

how to ensure that affected customers pay rents on time given they

will have less benefit, in encouraging customers to move to more

suitable properties, and in supporting customers through these

changes.

Viridian are interested in the different kinds of incentives that would

would encourage customers to pay their rent on time and move home

given the changes.

I’d like to start by asking you for some ideas about these – what do you

think Viridian could do?

MODERATOR TO HAND OUT POST-IT NOTE AND ASK ALL PARTICIPANTS

TO COME UP WITH 3 IDEAS IN THE NEXT THREE MINUTES

MODERATOR TO RETURN TO FLIPCHART PAGE WHERE TYPES OF

CUSTOMERS AFFECTED AND BARRIERS/ ENABLERS ARE NOTED AS A

PROMPT TO PARTICIPANTS IF HELPFUL

We will explore

the participants’

own and other

suggestions on

incentives and

interventions to

test with

customers:

potential triggers

to change their

behaviours and

current financial

behaviours with

regards to their

housing costs, and

the alternatives to

financial transfers

MODERATOR TO PROMPT ON OFFERING ADVICE, SUPPORT, REMINDERS,

INFORMATION, PENALTIES OR INCENTIVES IF HELPFUL

I’m now going to go through each idea in turn. MODERATOR TO ASK

EACH PARTICIPANT FOR IDEAS IN TURN

Can you explain why you suggested this?

• What would be the advantages of this?

• Can you think of any disadvantages?

I’d now like to talk about some different approaches used by other

housing associations and more generally to motivate people to pay

rent on time and move home. Viridian is not actually planning to use

these – they come from other HAs – but they want to know what you

think of them.

MODERATOR TO HAND OUT STIMULUS AND ALLOW 5 MINS FOR

PARTICIPANTS TO READ

Thinking first about the financial incentives described (BLUE AND RED

BULLET POINTS), would they encourage you to…?

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• Pay your rent on time?

• Move home?

• Why/ why not? PROBE IN DEPTH

• Can you think of any disadvantages to offering financial

incentives?

• What else about these schemes would you want to know?

• PROMPT ON: PAYING PEOPLE WHO WERE ALREADY PLANNING

TO MOVE; NOT ADDRESSING EMOTIONAL/ MOTIVATIONAL

BARRIERS; NOT ADDRESSING LACK OF CAPABILITY, FOR EXAMPLE

IN BUDGETING/ MANAGING FINANCES

*Thinking about the schemes that offer other – non-financial - types of

rewards or support (GREEN BULLET POINTS), would they encourage you

to…?

• Pay your rent on time?

• Move home?

• Can you explain why? PROBE IN DEPTH

IMPORTANT TO

COVER THIS

QUESTION IN THE

GROUP

• Which ones appeal to you most? Why?

• What do you think about the schemes that offer support?

• What do you think about the suggestions for communicating

the changes?

• What else about these schemes would you want to know?

• Can you think of any disadvantages to offering these incentives?

Thinking about the schemes that offer financial rewards, how much

money should they offer in order to motivate you to participate?

• As rent discounts

• In vouchers

• For prize draws

• As cash incentives to move

• What else about these schemes would you want to know?

In general, some of these schemes offer ‘rewards’ to people, and

others offer penalties (carrot vs. stick). Which do you think is the most

effective approach?

• Can you explain why? PROBE IN DEPTH

Think about the ideas you came up with earlier, do you think any of

them might work better?

• Why?

Given all that we’ve discussed, can you think of any other incentives –

or penalties – that might be effective?

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What kinds of information would you want about these schemes?

• And how would you like to receive this information?

• PROMPT ON LETTERS; LEAFLETS; EMAILS; FACE-TO-FACE ADVICE

And what do you think a successful incentive scheme should look like

to encourage Viridian customers affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ to pay

rent on time and move to smaller homes?

• Will it encourage all those who will struggle to pay their rent to

pay on time?

• Will it encourage those under-occupiers who were less willing to

move to do so?

5. Conclusion and final thoughts 15 mins

Given all that we’ve discussed, how do you think Viridian best protect

its income and ensure that customers pay what they owe on time?

How do you think it could best encourage customers to downsize and

move?

MODERATOR TO ENCOURAGE PARTICIPANTS TO CHOOSE ONE IDEA

WHICH THEY THINK WOULD WORK BEST

What is the single most important thing Viridian could do in response

to the ‘bedroom tax’ changes?

MODERATOR TO THANK PARTICIPANTS AND CLOSE DISCUSSON

MODERATOR TO EXPLAIN NEXT STEPS AND HAND OUT INCENTIVE

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Appendix 2 – Topline survey results

Total

Affected by HB

reform

S1(a)

S1(b)

S1(c)

Affected Control

Base size: 201 101 101

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with each of the

following .... The overall service provided by Viridian

Housing?

Very satisfied 38 35 40

Fairly satisfied 41 36 46

Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 6 11 1

Fairly dissatisfied 9 12 6

Very dissatisfied 6 6 6

Combinations - Summary net Satisfied (Top 2 Box) 79 71 87

Dissatisfied (Bottom 2 Box) 15 18 12

Net satisfied 63 53 74

Base size: 201 101 101

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with each of the

following ....This accommodation?

Very satisfied 50 53 48

Fairly satisfied 31 31 31

Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 4 2 6

Fairly dissatisfied 8 7 10

Very dissatisfied 6 7 4

Combinations - Summary net Satisfied (Top 2 Box) 82 84 80

Dissatisfied (Bottom 2 Box) 14 14 14

Net satisfied 68 70 65

Base size: 201 101 101

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with each of the

following .... The way Viridian Housing deals with repairs

and maintenance?

Very satisfied 35 29 41

Fairly satisfied 31 29 32

Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 7 7 7

Fairly dissatisfied 12 17 7

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Very dissatisfied 14 17 11

Don't know 2 1 2

Combinations - Summary net Satisfied (Top 2 Box) 65 58 73

Dissatisfied (Bottom 2 Box) 26 34 18

Net satisfied 39 24 55

WR1

WR2

WR3a

Base size: 201 101 101

Thinking about your current accommodation, would you

say that you have more bedrooms than you need, not

enough bedrooms for what you need, or the right number of

bedrooms for what you need?

More than need 10 17 2

Not enough 15 10 20

Right number 75 73 77

Don't know 1 1

Base size: 201 101 101

As you may know, the Government is introducing a

number of changes to Housing Benefit. Before this

interview, how much, if anything, did you know about these

changes?

A great deal 21 18 25

A fair amount 37 47 28

Not very much 28 25 31

Nothing at all 13 9 16

Don't know 1 1

Combinations - Summary net A great deal/fair amount Top 2

Box 59 65 52

Not very much/Nothing at all - Bottom 2 Box 41 34 48

Net a great deal/fair amount 18 31 5

Base size: 101 101

If you were to receive a reduction in the amount of Housing

Benefit you currently receive, what, if anything, would

you/your household do to make sure you could still afford

the rent?

Spend less on household essentials (e.g. food, heating) 20 20

Borrow money from friends / family 10 10

Spend less on nonessentials (e.g. going out, holidays) 7 7

Look at moving to lower rent properties 7 7

Look for a job 6 6

Look to increase the number of hours worked at current job 6 6

Look for an additional (i.e. second or third) job 4 4

Try to find new benefits/increase existing benefits 4 4

Take in a lodger 3 3

Look for a better paid job 2 2

Speak to Viridian/my landlord 1 1

Other 6 6

None of these 8 8

Nothing would pay to stay 7 7

Don't know 31 31

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WR3b

Base size: 101 101

If you were to receive a reduction in your income which

meant you could no longer afford your rent, what, if

anything, would you/your household do to make up the

shortfall between your income and rent?

Try to find new benefits/increase existing benefits 13 13

Look for a job 12 12

Look for an additional (i.e. second or third) job 12 12

Look to increase the number of hours worked at current job 7 7

Spend less on household essentials (e.g. food, heating) 6 6

Speak to Viridian/my landlord 4 4

Look at moving to lower rent properties 3 3

Borrow money from friends / family 3 3

Take in a lodger 2 2

Use savings 2 2

Spend less on nonessentials (e.g. going out, holidays) 2 2

Look for a better paid job 1 1

Other 6 6

None of these 10 10

Nothing - would not do anything 2 2

Nothing would pay to stay 4 4

Don't know 30 30

M1

Base size: 201 101 101

If you could no longer afford the rent here, would you

consider moving to somewhere more affordable, or not?

Definitely consider moving 17 17 17

Probably consider moving 21 20 22

Probably not consider moving 15 17 13

Definitely not consider moving 41 40 42

Don't know 6 5 6

Combinations - Summary net Definitely/probably consider

moving (Top 2 Box) 38 37 39

Definitely not/probably not consider moving (Bottom 2 Box) 56 57 55

M2

Base size: 118 60 58

If you could no longer afford the rent, what is the furthest

distance in miles you would be prepared to move, if any,

from here to somewhere more affordable?

None, would not be prepared to move 15 16 14

Less than 2 miles 13 10 15

2 - 5 miles 32 31 34

6 - 7 miles 3 3 2

8 - 10 miles 6 12

11 - 20 miles 5 5 5

Over 20 miles 11 14 9

Don't know 15 20 10

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Combinations - Summary net Any distance 57 53 61

M3(a)

Base size: 201 101 101

If you could no longer afford the rent, would you consider

moving from here to somewhere more affordable, or not,

if....? Viridian Housing offered you a one-off financial

incentive to move into alternative accommodation?

Definitely consider moving 18 19 18

Probably consider moving 33 27 39

Probably not consider moving 7 11 4

Definitely not consider moving 34 37 31

Don't know 7 6 9

Combinations - Summary net Definitely/probably consider

moving (Top 2 Box) 51 46 56

Definitely not/probably not consider moving (Bottom 2 Box) 41 48 35

Net definitely/probably consider moving 10 22

M3(b)

Base size: 201 101 101

If you could no longer afford the rent, would you consider

moving from here to somewhere more affordable, or not,

if....? Viridian Housing offered support to move you into

alternative accommodation, for example by paying for

removal fees or helping to rearrange your utility bills?

Definitely consider moving 18 15 22

Probably consider moving 26 22 29

Probably not consider moving 12 15 9

Definitely not consider moving 37 39 35

Don't know 8 9 6

Combinations - Summary net Definitely/probably consider

moving (Top 2 Box) 44 37 50

Definitely not/probably not consider moving (Bottom 2 Box) 49 54 44

Net definitely/probably consider moving 7

M3(c)

Base size: 201 101 101

If you could no longer afford the rent, would you consider

moving from here to somewhere more affordable, or not,

if....? Viridian Housing offered to help adapt your new

accommodation to meet your specific needs?

Definitely consider moving 21 17 24

Probably consider moving 32 29 34

Probably not consider moving 9 12 7

Definitely not consider moving 32 36 29

Don't know 6 5 7

Combinations - Summary net Definitely/probably consider

moving (Top 2 Box) 52 47 57

Definitely not/probably not consider moving (Bottom 2 Box) 42 48 35

Net definitely/probably consider moving 10 22

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- Internal / Client Use Only

M3(d)

M3

M4

Base size: 201 101 101

If you could no longer afford the rent, would you consider

moving from here to somewhere more affordable, or not,

if....? Viridian Housing said they would evict you from your

current accommodation if you did not keep up with the

rent?

Definitely consider moving 26 25 26

Probably consider moving 22 21 22

Probably not consider moving 8 8 8

Definitely not consider moving 30 30 30

Don't know 14 15 13

Combinations - Summary net Definitely/probably consider

moving (Top 2 Box) 47 46 49

Definitely not/probably not consider moving (Bottom 2 Box) 38 39 38

Net definitely/probably consider moving 9 7 11

Base size: 201 101 101

Number of interventions in which respondents are

interested/not interested

Definitely/probably consider 1+ 69 68 71

Definitely/probably consider 2+ 55 48 61

Definitely/probably consider 3+ 42 36 48

Definitely/probably consider 4 28 24 32

Definitely/probably NOT consider 1+ 63 66 60

Definitely/probably NOT consider 2+ 49 53 45

Definitely/probably NOT consider 3+ 36 44 29

Definitely/probably NOT consider 4 23 27 18

Don't know/not stated 1 2 1

Base size: 201 101 101

In the future, and regardless of whether or not you could

afford the rent here, what reasons, if any, would you have

for staying here instead of moving elsewhere?

Prefer local area/like living here 42 44 39

Want to remain close to family 39 45 34

Always lived here 35 43 26

Is a good/friendly neighbourhood 18 20 17

Want to remain close to schools/good schools 18 20 17

Accommodation suits me/ wouldn't be able to find same

accommodation elsewhere 17 24 10

Want to remain close to services - GP, hospital etc. 16 20 12

Would be too far away from current job/place of work 14 12 17

Want to remain close to friends 12 12 11

Have spent a lot of money renovating the property 4 5 3

Cost of moving/too expensive to move 2 3 2

More expensive/higher cost of living in other areas 1 1 1

Worse job opportunities in other areas 1 2

Pets are happy here/ cannot move due to my pets 1 1

Worse quality property in other areas 1

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Other 10 13 6

Would consider looking at other non-local areas 2 4 1

None of these 6 3 8

Don't know 2 1 4

Mean number of mentions 2.31 2.64 1.98

FR1

Base size: 201 101 101

To what extent do you agree, or disagree, with the

following statement? Rent is the one weekly or monthly bill

which I try to ensure is paid off before others

Strongly agree (+2) 74 71 77

Tend to agree (+1) 14 16 13

Neither agree nor disagree (0) 5 5 4

Tend to disagree (-1) 2 2 2

Strongly disagree (-2) 1 2 1

Don't know 4 5 3

Mean 1.64 1.59 1.68

Standard Deviation 0.79 0.85 0.74

Combinations - Summary Agree (Top 2 Box) 88 86 90

Disagree (Bottom 2 Box) 3 4 3

Net agree 85 82 87

FR2

Base size: 201 101 101

Thinking about the future, do you think you would be more

or less likely to give higher priority to paying your rent over

other bills if Viridian Housing offered discounts to those

who paid their rent on time, or would it make no difference?

More likely 50 47 53

Less likely

Make no difference 46 48 43

Don't know 5 5 4

Net more likely 50 47 53

FR3

Base size: 201 101 101

Thinking about the future, do you think you would be more

or less likely to give higher priority to paying your rent over

other bills if Viridian Housing evicted those who did not

keep up with the rent, or would it make no difference?

More likely 36 34 38

Less likely 1 1

Make no difference 54 56 53

Don't know 9 10 9

Net more likely 35 33 38

Base size: 201 101 101

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- Internal / Client Use Only

FR4

How often, in the last 12 months, have you or your

household run out of money before the end of the week or

month? Please include any times when you have run out of

money and had to use your credit card, an overdraft, or

borrow to get by. Has that happened ...?

Very often 18 24 13

Fairly often 20 25 15

Hardly ever 29 32 26

Never 30 17 43

Don't know 1 1 1

Refused/prefer not to say 2 2 2

Combinations - Summary net Very/fairly often (Top 2 Box) 38 49 28

Hardly ever/Never (Bottom 2 Box) 59 49 69

Net Very/fairly often

FR5

FR6

Base size: 201 101 101

Which of the following best describes how long you

usually plan your budget for?

Weekly 30 32 29

Fortnightly 13 16 10

Monthly 35 30 41

Less frequently than this 2 2 1

It varies 18 19 16

Don't know 2 1 3

Combinations - Summary net Weekly/Fortnightly - Top 2

Box 43 48 39

Monthly/Less frequently Bottom 2 Box 37 32 42

Plan budget at least monthly 79 78 80

Net Weekly/Fortnightly 6 16

Base size: 201 101 101

Thinking about bills in general, and regardless of how you

currently pay them, which one of the following payment

methods would you most prefer to use?

Direct debit 38 31 45

Cash 22 25 20

Payment cards or keys for meters 19 26 12

Standing order 4 2 5

Other 3 3 3

I have no preference 13 11 15

Don't know 1 2

SC1

Base size: 201 101 101

Do you have access to the internet or not?

Yes - at home 62 54 70

Yes - at work 11 3 18

Yes - on mobile device 22 18 26

No 28 36 21

Combinations - Summary net Yes 72 64 79

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- Internal / Client Use Only

SC2

SC3

Age

Gender

Priority

Rent

Base size: 144 65 79

Still thinking about the internet, would you be confident or

not about being able to make an application for a benefit

online?

Yes 42 40 43

No 55 57 53

Don't know 3 3 4

Base size: 201 101 101

Which, if any, of the following types of support, help or

advice would you or a member of your household be

interested in receiving from Viridian Housing?

Looking at accommodation options if you wanted to move 48 46 50

Finding benefits you might be entitled to 42 47 37

Accessing skills or training 27 27 27

Other caring responsibilities 22 26 18

Using the internet 22 22 21

Finding a job 20 25 15

Managing your money effectively 13 12 14

Childcare responsibilities 8 7 8

None of these 26 19 32

Prefer not to receive any support 3 2 3

Don't know 2 2 2

Base size: 201 101 101

18-34 11 10 12

35-54 47 51 42

55 or more 42 38 46

Not stated 1 1

Base size: 201 101 101

Male 36 37 36

Female 64 63 64

Base size: 201 101 101

customers - visited by a housing officer?

Yes 5 4 6

No 95 96 94

Base size: 201 101 101

amount

Up to below £105 33 22 43

£105 to £125 31 27 34

More than £125 36 51 22

Number

of bedrooms

Base size: 201 101 101

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1 to 2 53 41 66

3+ 45 59 31

Not stated 2 3

SQ1

SQ2

SQ3

SQ4

SQ5

Base size: 201 101 101

Impact of Housing Benefit Reform (Sample Type)

Affected 50 100

Control 50 100

Base size: 201 101 101

Region

East Midlands 7 4 10

North London 16 18 14

South East London 22 25 18

South West London 33 36 31

West Midlands 8 7 8

West Sussex 14 8 19

Combinations - Summary net London 71 80 62

Not London 29 20 38

Base size: 201 101 101

Household size

1 32 37 27

2 29 26 31

3 22 23 21

4 10 9 11

5 or more 7 4 9

Combinations - Summary net More than one person

household 68 63 73

Base size: 201 101 101

Number of children in household

None 71 75 66

1 14 9 19

2 10 13 7

3 or more 6 3 8

Summary None 71 75 66

1 14 9 19

1 or more (any) 29 25 34

2 or more 16 16 15

Affected - With Child 13 25

Affected - No Child 38 75

Affected - Refused Child

Control - With Child 17 34

Control - No Child 33 66

Control - Refused Child

Base size: 101 101

Housing Benefit Received? (Affected Customers only)

Yes - Full 56 56

79

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Yes - Partial 44 44

No

Don't know

Housing

RH1

RH2A

Base size: 101 101

Benefit (Control only)

Yes 52 52

No 48 48

Base size: 201 101 101

Ethnicity

English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British 56 53 58

Irish 2 2 1

Gypsy or Irish Traveller

Any other White background 5 5 5

White and Black Caribbean 2 3

White and Black African 2 3 2

White and Asian

Any other Mixed / Multiple ethnic background 2 3 1

Indian 1 3

Pakistani 1 1

Bangladeshi 1 1

Chinese

Any other Asian background 1 2

African 7 9 6

Caribbean 12 13 10

Any other Black background 2 2 1

Arab

Any other ethnic group 3 3 3

Don't know/prefer not to say 5 4 5

Combinations - Summary net White 62 59 65

Mixed 6 6 6

Asian or Asian British 4 4 3

Black or Black British 21 24 17

Other ethnic groups 3 3 3

BME 33 37 30

Base size: 201 101 101

Working Status

Working Full-time (30+ hrs/wk) 15 4 26

Working Part-time (8-29 hrs/wk) 17 17 17

Working (under 8 hrs/wk) 1 2

Housewife/husband 3 5 1

Retired 20 19 21

Registered unemployed 15 13 16

Unemployed but not registered 1 1 2

Permanently sick/ disabled 20 27 13

On a training scheme

Voluntary work 1 1 1

Student 1 2

Other 4 7 2

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- Internal / Client Use Only

Refused 1 2 1

Combinations - Summary net Working (Full or Part time) 32 21 43

RH2b

RH2a/b

RH3

RH4(a)

RH5

Base size: 134 78 56

Working Status in Household

Yes - Full-time (30+ hrs/wk) 12 9 16

Yes - Part-time (8-29 hrs/wk) 8 5 11

No 79 82 75

Don't know 2 4

Base size: 201 101 101

Working Status in Household - (Combined respondent and

household)

Working full-time or part time (8+ hrs/wk) 45 33 57

Not working full-time or part time ) 54 66 42

Don't know/Refused/Not stated 1 1 1

Base size: 201 101 101

Which, if any, of the following applies to you?

I have a bank or building society account in my own name or

joint names 87 86 89

I have at least one direct debit set up on my account 67 67 66

I use online banking 27 22 33

I have an account with the Post Office 14 18 10

None of these apply 2 2 2

Refused/prefer not to say 3 3 2

Base size: 201 101 101

Household Income

Up to £4,999 (up to £417 per month) 5 7 3

£5,000 - £7,499 (£418 to £624 per month) 6 7 6

£7,500 - £9,999 (£625 to £832 per month) 9 9 9

£10,000 - £14,999 (£833 to £1,249 per month) 13 16 10

£15,000 - £19,999 (£1,250 to £1,666 per month) 7 5 8

£20,000 - £29,999 (£1,667 to £2,499 per month) 3 6

£30,000 - £39,999 (£2,500 to £3,332 per month) 3 6

£40,000 - £49,999 (£3,333 to £4,166 per month) 1 1

£50,000 or more (£4,167 or more per month) 1

Prefer not to say 17 10 23

Don't know 36 45 27

Base size: 201 101 101

Which tax credits or social security benefits, if any, do you

currently receive?

Housing Benefit or Council Tax Credit 50 77 22

Child tax credit 22 21 22

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) 21 24 17

Income Support 14 23 6

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (Previously known

as Incapacity Benefit) 13 14 12

Child Benefit 12 9 15

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Working tax credit 10 11 10

Pension Credit 10 9 10

Jobseeker's Allowance 4 3 5

Carer's Allowance 4 6 2

Other benefits 6 8 5

Not receiving any benefits or credits 14 3 25

Prefer not to say 10 10 10

Don't know 2 1 2

RH6

Base size: 201 101 101

Do you, or does anyone in your household, receive support

from social services or other support agencies for any of

the following issues?

Mental health 11 9 12

Drugs or alcohol 2 3 1

Debt management 2 2 1

Literacy or language difficulties 1 2

Probation 1

Prefer not to say 5 3 7

None of the above 80 82 78

Base size: 201 101 101

Length of tenancy

Less than 5 years 20 14 26

Less than 10 years 39 34 45

More than 5 years 80 85 74

More than 10 years 60 65 55

Not stated 1

82

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Contact Details

Viridian Housing

Colwell House,

376 Clapham Road,

London, SW9 9AR

www.viridianhousing.org.uk

Polly Walker

t: 0330 123 0220

e: polly.walker@viridanhousing.org.uk

Ipsos MORI

79-81 Borough Road

London

SE1 1FY

Jerry Latter

t: 020 7347 3000

e. Jerry.Latter@ipsos.com

83

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ISO 20252:2006.

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