Universal Credit - updates from our work with the Government

11 July 2019

This Universal Credit update provides the latest on rent changes, supported housing, the benefit cap and more.

We’ve been working on behalf of members and their residents to make Universal Credit a system that works for everyone. We’re making good progress but there’s still a way to go before Universal Credit can work for all those that need it.

If you have any questions about Universal Credit or welfare reform then please contact Sue Ramsden. See our updates from our work with the Government below.

1. Rent changes April 2019

In our last update, we said that the DWP was looking to change the Landlord Portal, so that landlords would be able to upload data on rent changes in bulk. The DWP still aims to move to a system of bulk uploads, testing has begun for this and we will update you when we know more.

Many landlords reported receiving multiple requests for the verification of new rents. We will continue to work with the DWP to support the introduction of bulk uploads alongside a range of other improvements to the Portal. 

2. Supported housing and Universal Credit

We’re concerned referral arrangements between Housing Benefit and Universal Credit teams are failing some claimants, as the system is complex and open to long delays. If you have experienced problems with this process, then please get in touch.

People living in supported or sheltered housing should be able to claim help with housing costs through Housing Benefit rather than Universal Credit. Local authority Housing Benefit departments use the ‘specified accommodation’ definition to determine if the claim is for someone living in supported housing.

The DWP has issued guidance to local authorities to signpost claimants back to Universal Credit if they don’t come under the definition of specified accommodation.

3. Changes to the benefit cap

The Government has rejected the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendation to restrict the benefit cap to people actively seeking work. This recommendation is based on the Committee’s benefit cap report, which found that 82% of households subject to the cap were assessed as not required to work.

The Government has also rejected the following recommendations:

  • Exempt claimants in temporary accommodation from the cap. The Government has agreed to "look further into this complex area" following the completion of its evaluation into the impact of the cap which is due to be published this autumn.
  • Prevent the ‘deeper bite’ the cap makes into a family's Universal Credit payment compared to a similar family in receipt of Housing Benefit. The Government has said that making this change would cut across a fundamental aspect of the design of Universal Credit.
  • Find a solution for claimants who are capped because of when their paydays fall. The Government has said it has been "applying the legislation correctly and does not accept there is any error or a need to compensate claimants who have had the cap applied".

The Government is currently looking at the most recent changes to the cap and will announce any changes after this evaluation is complete.

4. Amber Rudd announces end to three-year sanction on benefits

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has announced an end to the three-year sanction in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit. The sanctions are a reduction in benefits applied after someone has failed to meet one of the requirements in their claimant commitment – such as failing to apply for a particular job when told to do so or attending a work focused activity – for a third time in a year.

The Government will also reduce the maximum individual sanction length for any benefit claimant to six months by the end of 2019.

5. Universal Credit and 53 week rent years

The Government has acknowledged that there is an issue with the calculation of Universal Credit payments. The current system converts weekly rent to a monthly amount by multiplying by 52 and then dividing by 12. This means that payments only cover 364 days a year.

Amber Rudd has stated that she is considering whether to amend the formulation. To achieve this, she would have to introduce regulatory change as well as making changes to operations processes. We will keep you updated on any changes to this.

6. New rules for mixed age couples

New regulations came into force on 15 May 2019 amending mixed-age couple benefit rules (where one claimant is of working age) so that they are now not entitled to pension-age benefits including Housing Benefit.

If a mixed-age couple were claiming Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit before 14 May 2019 then they will continue to be able to claim these pension-age benefits.

Visit the Government’s website for more information.

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