Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government
The Tenancy Saver Loan (TSL) scheme was launched in October 2020. It was designed to support tenants who experienced a temporary change of income due to the pandemic. This includes people on furlough who received 80% of their wages for a period of time, those who took unpaid leave from their employment to care for someone, or those who were only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during self-isolation which meant that they could not afford their rent. I am grateful to the WCVA and the seven Credit Unions supporting the TSL scheme, who have also helped tenants find assistance through other schemes and benefit programmes, including the Early Alert Scheme.
Our original intention, when we launched the TSL scheme, was that it would continue until 31 March 2021, with the option to extend if needed. As the pandemic continues, and restrictions remain in place, many tenants continue to live with lower incomes than normal. I am also acutely aware of the potential spike in evictions that will take place when the stay on evictions and extended notice of possession periods end. Given this and the difficulties many people are continuing to face in paying their rent, I have agreed to extend the TSL scheme for at least six months, until 30 September.
The TSL scheme was not intended to target all tenants in rent arrears and the loans must be affordable. It was designed to provide loans for those who had arrears because they had become temporarily unable to meet their rent but who returned to being able to afford their rent, but were struggling to clear their arrears.
We are exploring ways in which the TSL scheme could be improved to extend its reach and increase the number of applications and awards. In the first instance, this will include better communication, so that landlords and tenants have a greater awareness of the scheme; we are also working with credit unions to consider other potential changes that may increase the numbers of those able to access it.
Discretionary Housing Payments are available for those on benefits and provided through local authorities. To help local authorities meet the extra demand that is likely to be generated in the next year, I have allocated an additional £4.1m funding to top up DHP funding and help local authorities to support tenants in rent arrears both this year and in 2021-2022.
This government has achieved much to strengthen the rights of those renting their home in Wales and now we must re-double our efforts when it comes to supporting tenants through the pandemic and beyond.