Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Employees


Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Employees

In November 2013 we were hearing more and more about the impact welfare reform was having on Housing customers. Working closely with our Housing clients, we were hearing more about how challenging employees were finding their day to day interactions with customers. As more customers faced financial difficulties, Housing employees were encountering customers really struggling and in too many cases finding them close to suicide or certainly not knowing where to turn. This could have a
real impact on employee wellbeing and consequently an impact on organisation performance. In response to this we carried out a piece of research to understand the situation in more detail.

We worked with 10 Housing organisations to look in to the challenges/issues that Housing/Income and Welfare employees were facing in their day to day working lives. We surveyed over 700 employees and had face to face interviews and focus groups with over 300. The research asked questions around the following:

  • What are they experiencing?
  • How are they coping with this?
  • How is this any different from before?
  • What does it make them feel like?
  • How resilient are they feeling?
  • What support do they have?
  • How easy is it to access the appropriate support?
  • What are they doing to manage their reactions and responses to ensure they take care of their own wellbeing at the same time as taking care of their customers’ wellbeing?

In November 2014, we revisited the research with 7 of the original participating organisations. This time we surveyed just under 500 customer facing employees and held focus groups with over 150 employees. We asked the same questions to ensure we could make a comparison against the previous year. We were interested in understanding:

  • Has the situation changed at all? Are more customers facing hardship or are customer in even worse situations?
  • How challenging is this? Are Housing employees getting used to the new landscape?
  • How do they feel? Are they more equipped to deal with the challenge, now that many organisations have invested in training and support for their teams?
  • Has this investment worked?
  • How supported do they feel? Has the support requirement increased?

Download Research PDF


60% said that customer interactions were more challenging than 6 months ago. Welfare reform remains the main reason, (many more mentioned the impact of sanctions as well as bedroom tax and increased arrears), and again increased workload due to the complexity of cases as well as more people needing support and customers being more angry, upset and frustrated.

39% feel only slightly/moderately equipped to cope with the increased challenge (a 5% improvement on last year).

91% have found customers to be in more financial difficulty than 6 months ago (a 4% reduction on last year).

53% have experienced customers making suicide threats (an 8% increase on last year), with only 26% feeling well equipped to deal with this (a 1% improvement).

41% feel very/extremely well supported at work (a 4% reduction on last year), with 59% feeling unsupported to moderately supported.

83% reported feeling stressed at work, workload and not having the time to do their jobs properly were the main causes of stress. Internal organisation frustrations e.g. paperwork, systems, bureaucracy were also cited as reasons for stress (less focus on dealing with emotional customers). This is a significant increase on last year’s results.


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StraightForward Partnership Limited

Charlotte: 07921 165561
Andy: 07791 512546

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