Staff from social landlord Barnet Homes are hitting the streets to visit hundreds of residents as part of a new welfare reform awareness campaign.

The staff will be knocking on doors at more than 1,600 homes where residents are known to be ‘under-occupying’, with one or more bedrooms than they are judged to need under government criteria.

That means they will face a reduction in housing benefit due to government reforms taking effect from April 2013. It means they could struggle to keep up with rent payments, which may ultimately lead to some tenants facing eviction from their homes.

Barnet Homes is committed to supporting residents to maintain their tenancies and will be encouraging people to take action now to prevent a rent shortfall during the personal visits.

Options include:

  • undertaking training to improve future job prospects, including a wide range of training opportunities on offer through Barnet Homes
  • taking in a lodger
  • moving to a smaller home managed by Barnet Homes or another social landlord
  • swapping homes with another council tenant through a scheme called mutual exchange.

Barnet Homes Chief Executive, Tracey Lees, said: “Welfare reform is going to have an impact on a large number of the residents we serve. We’re knocking on doors because we want to ensure they are aware of the situation and don’t just hide their heads in the sand.

“People need to take action now. We hope many will take up the training we offer through our ongoing ‘Feeling the Squeeze’ campaign, and that this will lead to long-term employment opportunities.

“But there are other options too, from moving to a smaller home to swapping homes with another tenant, and also taking in a lodger.”

Under the government criteria housing benefit will pay for one bedroom for each of the following people from April 2013:

  • an adult couple
  • anyone else aged 16 or over
  • two children under 16 of the same sex
  • two children under 10 regardless of sex
  • any other child
  • a carer who needs occasionally to stay overnight

The changes only apply to tenants of working age.

Visited tenants will receive a new Barnet Homes guide called¬†“Benefits – what everyone needs to know”¬†setting out the under-occupation changes and the other impacts of welfare reform, including a new benefit cap from April 2013 and the introduction of a single Universal Credit benefit system starting from October 2013.

Staff visiting residents will all be carrying ID. Residents are asked to check this before allowing them into their home and, if they remain unsure, should call 0800 3895225.