Good morning

DWP has just made a “backdated” award of £3000 in Universal Credit “Housing Costs” to a Housing Association client of mine, fully clearing off rent arrears, that had been accruing, since February 2018, when their tenant was wrongly advised, by DWP, to cancel his Universal Credit claim.

DWP believed by cancelling UC, his local council could have reinstated Housing Benefit, not appreciating, this was impossible, as it had earlier issued a “Legacy Benefit” STOP Notice, bringing a permanent end to the “legacy award”.

The cancellation meant the tenant had no housing costs, nor any help from Housing Benefit. Despite DWP’s acknowledged error, it has taken the tenant’s Housing Officer, fully 18 months of sustained effort, with a bit of assistance from me, to secure a satisfactory outcome. But for her commitment and perseverance, and the patience of the Association’s senior management, this tenant could well have lost out financially and been evicted.

I mentioned this case in an earlier bulletin so I won’t repeat the facts. Suffice to say, DWP didn’t cover themselves in any glory, neither, at the time of the mistake nor in their efforts to impede the HO in her efforts to remedy the problem.

When I discovered what had happened to the UC award, I drafted a “late revision” request, to effectively have the flawed cancellation of his UC reviewed and revised in his favour. “Late Revision” enables the Decision Maker to look back at the disputed decision, as long as the request is made within 13 months of the decision itself. DWP surprisingly refused to remedy its earlier howlers; treated my request as a Mandatory Reconsideration; and ultimately refused to reinstate.

So, I drafted an appeal against the refusal to retrospectively reinstate. The HO sent this to the Tribunal Service and repeatedly followed this up, over the past 4 months. Despite DWP being instructed by the District Judge to respond to the appeal, it initially failed to do so. The Judge then directed a hearing to take place, and after months of prevaricating, DWP eventually conceded.

If you speak to your Housing Officers, Welfare Rights, Benefits Advice and Financial Inclusion staff, you’ll find other such horror stories exist in your caseload. I cited another example, this time, of an SDP case, which should have been prevented from making a new claim, due to the 16th January 2019 introduction of the “SDP Gateway”. The Gateway was designed to stop Severe Disability Premium cases from migrating to UC until “Transitional Payments” are in place to offset any potential losses, but despite these barriers to entry, DWP accepted and paid the claim.

I forecasted future breaches of the Gateway and was correct in my prediction. I received, yet another example, just in the past few days, where DWP’s so called “Benefit Experts” simply hadn’t a clue, how to solve the problem they had created.

I regret to say, there’s every likelihood, mistakes of this nature will become all the more commonplace, as “Managed Migration” is implemented, trebling the number of UC recipients, and placing more pressure on an already heavily criticised and struggling DWP administration. This will also create an even more challenging environment for tenants and landlords alike. Make sure your staff are suitably prepared for the challenges ahead.

Demands specifically for “Managed Migration” (MM) training continue to rise. Please note, we’re not able to undertake any new commissions until the new year, with the likelihood of MM starting, July 2020.

If you require more information on this or any other welfare reform topic, please email or phone 07733 080 389.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd

September 2019