Living With New Welfare



Felicity Evans hears the personal stories behind the government's Direct Payments trial.

Direct Payments form a central part of the Coalition's planned changes to the benefits system. It confers responsibility for managing money on the recipients themselves. In the case of Housing Benefit for social housing tenants, the rent is paid directly into the recipient's bank account rather than to their landlord, with the task of paying the landlord falling with the individuals concerned. The intention is that it will increase their sense of responsibility over their own lives and make them better able to cope should they move into a job.

It's a controversial change. It gives a taste of the financial accountability that most people have to shoulder. But for some individuals it means a significant adjustment, as they possibly navigate a bank account for the first time, or deal with conflicting demands on an already limited pot of money - if the rent appears in your bank account, what's to stop you spending it on something other than the rent? Social landlords are concerned that it will result in increased arrears and impact on their revenue streams.

Since June 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions has run pilot projects in six areas across the UK in order to assess how well tenants would cope with having their housing benefit paid in this way. One of these trial areas is Torfaen in South Wales, and in this programme, Felicity Evans goes behind the headlines to hear about the experiences of several participants in Torfaen. How has the change impacted their lives? And who really benefits?

Producer: Martin Williams.