The Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD’s) housing support products (HSPs) are intended to help meet the costs of moving into private sector housing, or maintaining an existing private tenancy. HSPs were reviewed in August 2017 using MSD data and focus groups with frontline staff. This report provides the findings, and recommendations based on this research.
This report outlines how the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) housing support products (HSPs) are being accessed by clients and reviewed and improved by MSD. The findings of this report contribute to a review of HSPs by MSD’s housing policy team. Findings and recommendations are based on research completed in August 2017 using standard MSD data and internal focus groups with Work and Income case managers who are the frontline staff, that use HSPs to support clients.
Raw data for use of each HSP product (except Relocation from Auckland Assistance) to 30 June 2017 was extracted from MSD’s Information Analysis Platform. Variables included client demographics, HSP cost, client benefit status, and housing status before and after HSP payment.
Data on Relocation from Auckland Assistance products was gathered from records held by the Housing Service Delivery team.
All data was grouped by HSP ‘occasion’, defined as the co-occurrence of one or more HSP payments to the same client within a calendar month. Data for recipients’ status regarding public housing and register was obtained at three time points: immediately prior to receiving their first HSP, one month afterwards, and at 30 June 2017.
Supplementing the quantitative data with a qualitative understanding of HSPs was recommended, in order to gain potential insights into the comparative value of HSPs for different client groups and in different situations.
Given the short timeframe of the information requirements, MSD agreed the best approach was to conduct focus groups with the Top 20 case managers. Case managers are uniquely placed to be able to comment on the administrative requirements of HSPs and how these might influence their use. They are also aware of the wider context around their recipients and thus can provide insights into the impact of HSPs for recipients who used them compared to those who do not. However, MSD do acknowledge that as with all participants, case managers can have biased perspectives too – for example, being passionate about seeing their recipients do well, general human cognitive biases such as better memory for positive and recent events.
A focus group approach was chosen as it was the most efficient use of limited time in which to gather meaningful and rich data, while also offering the opportunity to explore topics in more depth depending on what participants discussed.
A session with the Top 20 Case Managers was conducted on 8 August 2017 with four Insights MSD Research and Evaluation staff and the Housing Policy project team members. The session consisted of a whole-group introduction to the research and general questions about awareness and use of HSPs. This was followed by four smaller focus groups (3 to 5 case managers each) addressing four focus group questions. The session took approximately 45 minutes in total. Audio from each group was digitally recorded and transcribed by MSD’s Research and Evaluation team, and the overall themes of the data were collated and synthesised.
- HSPs are associated with moving out of public housing: 70 percent of HSP recipients who lived in public housing left it within one month of receiving HSPs.
- HSPs may also help prevent recipients who are already in alternative housing from moving into public housing or onto the Social Housing Register: 96 percent of HSP recipients already living in alternative housing remained out of public housing one month after receiving HSPs.
- Use of HSPs has been increasing since their launch in July 2014, with 66 percent of all HSPs being used in the 12 months to 30 June 2017.
- HSPs are particularly helpful for some people, such as recipients who don’t qualify for other forms of assistance. HSP recipients tend to be female (77 percent), Māori (49 percent), single (44 percent), with children (44 percent), receiving a main benefit (67 percent), and not in public housing system or on the register (58 percent).
- Bond Grant, Letting Fees Assistance and Rent in Advance are the most commonly used HSPs, the least expensive (of those HSPs with monetary costs), and commonly administered together as a package.
- Tenancy Costs Cover is least commonly used and may discourage landlords from letting to MSD recipients by implying a likelihood of damage to their property.
- Level of uptake of HSPs is consistent with policy intent but also reflects other factors. Case managers use HSPs only after exploring other options first, however they also identified other complications they encounter when using HSPs such as complex eligibility criteria and perceived administrative barriers.