Good afternoon

Numbers of Universal Credit claimants have doubled, since the March lockdown. Of those new claimants, a disproportionate percentage  fall into the 16-24 age group. Many of these young people, no longer live at home and are forced to take on responsibility for rooms in HMOs or share property, often with strangers, just to have the safety of a roof over their heads. It’s only after claiming, do they experience, the double-whammy of receiving a monthly Universal Credit Standard Allowance (£342.72) which is less than the 25 year old’s rate (£409.89) AND “eligible housing costs” restricted to the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) which is unlikely to help them meet their contractual liability. Not surprsingly, in many cases, tenancies end prematurely through abandonement or eviction, as the young people come to the realisation they can’t make up the shortfall, between what DWP pays and what’s expected by their landlord, without starving themselves.

In contrast, someone 35+ qualifies for the 1-bedroom rate, even if they share the accommodation, including living room, kitchen, bathroom etc with others. For example, a person 35+ living in an HMO classified property, claiming Universal Credit (UC), automatically is entitled to claim the 1 bedroom a rate.

Importantly, Universal Credit includes some exceptions to the normal rule mentioned above, but these “excepted” categories are often overlooked in the UC assessment. The categories include:

  • Those under 35 in receipt of PIP Daily Living or DLA Care.
  • Those requiring access to an extra bedroom for the use of a non-resident carer, providing overnight care
  • Care leavers between the ages 18-21 who were in care at the age of 16.
  • Aged 25-34 who have spent at least three months – which do not need to have been continuous – in a homeless hostel/hostels, specialising in rehabilitating and resettling within the community
  • Ex-offenders who present a risk of serious harm to the public and are subject to active multi-agency risk management under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) to be rehabilitated back into the community (those aged 25-34 only in HB and anyone under 35 in UC)..

Furthermore, in response to COVID-19, the Government’s recent ‘Everyone In’ initiative and similar provisions in Scotland and Wales, aim to accommodate homeless people/rough sleepers, in some cases using hotel accommodation as temporary accommodation where necessary.

DWP, not surprisingly, has received several requests as to whether this accommodation is within the definition of ‘homeless hostel’ for the purposes of the exception which permits the one-bedroom rate to apply.

Its response confirms, where the above “exceptions” apply, the re-purposed hotels and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) establishments used for ‘Everyone In’ do satisfy the definition of ‘hostel’. This means that provided the claimant is over 25 and satisfy one or other of the exceptions, including the COVID measures, they should be entitled to a one-bedroom LHA rate.

While the ‘Everyone In’ initiative applies in England only; similar provisions were introduced for housing rough sleepers in Scotland and Wales. Provided the homelessness exemption criteria are satisfied and the hotel or B&B accommodation meets the hostel definition, the exemption will also apply to those rough sleepers housed in Scotland and Wales.

As you know, often the simplest of cases can often raise unexpected problems.

In these cases, the onus is on the claimant to provide supporting evidence. Therefore, where support and accommodation has been arranged through the Local Authority, UC claimants should request a letter of proof of their 3 month+ period of stay in an appropriate specialist hostel (or hostels) as well as confirmation that they had been offered and accepted support, to help them be rehabilitated or resettled in the community. If they do so, DWP should pay the correct 1-bedroom rate.

If you’re unsure about any of this, and members of our website, please email or call me on 07733 080 389.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd