18th November, 2022
Last week, I received a call from one of my Letting Agent clients, seeking help with his young son’s claim for Universal Credit. The son had moved into a new apartment, and notified the change to Universal Credit, in early September, via his journal. Over the following 10 days, he made his claimant commitment and complied with 8 different validation checks, including several related to his new landlord’s name, property address, tenancy agreement, rental charge etc.
Despite his journal acknowledging he had completed all these steps; he was refused assistance with his “housing costs”. Exactly why was less obvious. So, he logged a Mandatory Reconsideration request, which secured a quick acknowledgement and promise the case would revert to a Decision Maker for a determination. Just 1 week later, the journal was updated to reflect his MR had been successful with a promise he could expect an award from 7th September, the date of his claim, with an appropriate backdated award of housing costs.
At this point, he also asked for an Advanced Payment to allow him to pay utility & other household bills that had been accruing. The Advanced Payment of £150 was also agreed. Everything looked as if his efforts had paid off, but sadly the promised payments never materialised. Worst still, DWP was insisting he had to re-notify his change of circumstances & re-validate everything.
On 5th October he received a “To-do” in his journal stating, his claim had been suspended and could be cancelled back to the point of his original change of circumstances. He was asked to reaffirm his “housing costs” as the documents he had originally provided, including his AST, utility & council tax bills, had been “deleted in accordance with GDPR”. He was also instructed to provide a photo of himself – “including the top of your head and feet, next to the front door of the property, with the door open, keys in lock, clearly showing the exterior of building”!
My client wrote back saying – “I’ve previously notified you of the change, provided validation of the rent, property address, AST, Council tax, Utility bills, submitted a MR which was revised in my favour, with a promise of payment. So, why am I being asked to report all this again?”
He also added – “where’s the £150 you promised to allow me to settle my debts buy food etc?”
DWP responded – “please provide the information we’ve asked for, in the specified format, or your claim will be cancelled back to the initial date of claim.”
You could be forgiven for thinking this case is exceptional. On the contrary, scenarios like this are being played out daily, especially in private sector claims. This type of case should be straightforward and cause little or no problems but DWP’s staff are not being properly trained nor supported. Why, they’re routinely deleting supportive evidence, like AST agreements, crucial to the award of “housing costs” is bewildering. Council HB sections having been storing this information for years, because when disputes arise, causing referral to tribunals, this type of information forms part of the bundle of evidence supplied to Tribunals. In my experience, Tribunal judges will demand to see this evidence, rather than notes recorded on UC’s system by Customer Service officers.
I’ve referred the case to the responsible DWP area director and fully expect the case to be rectified quickly but watch this space for an update.
If you’re tenants are experiencing problems like this, get in touch and I’ll advise how best to tackle such problems. MY email is firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07733 080 389.
UC Advice & Advocacy ltd