12th November, 2023
In recent weeks, I’ve spent a large part of my time speaking to groups of social and private landlords, from Dundee to London, about the migration of “legacy benefit” claimants to Universal Credit. The training sessions have all been well attended, mainly by housing officers, their assistants, plus housing benefit, welfare rights, and financial inclusion staff. Having this mix of delegates, at the sessions, ensured lively discussion, during which we all learned, this latest phase of the migration process may be the most difficult of all for tenants to negotiate.
For example, some delegates confirmed, tenants receiving letters from both DWP and HMRC (Tax Credit cases) alerting them to the fact they could expect to receive a MM Notice sometime soon. Regrettably, some misunderstood the purpose of the “alert” letter, and prematurely submitted their claim for Universal Credit, only to discover, that as their claim had been received outwith the MM Notice period, it would be treated as “Voluntary” migration claim, not covered by Transitional Protection.
Others raised concerns over the number of tenants who had received notices but failed to act within the initial deadline period, resulting in their legacy benefits ending, with no replacement in place. Why did this happen?
Some tenants indicated, they had not claimed because they felt Universal Credit was a benefit paid to the unemployed, sick and disabled, and didn’t apply to people in work. Others said, they were content claiming Tax Credits, had phoned the DWP helpline, and were put off by the requirement to make a “claimant commitment” as they were working part-time and unwilling to increase their hours because of childcare commitments. The 5 weeks wait for the first monthly payment was another excuse offered as reason for initially failing to claim.
Thankfully, some escaped the probability of unnecessary benefits loss by being encouraged and helped by their landlord’s staff, to make their UC claim before the 2nd deadline date and thus protect their entitlement to the “2-week run-ons of their legacy benefits, including housing benefit.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in its latest welfare rights bulletin, reports that in analysis it conducted on MM, during the “Discovery” phase (up to March 2023) around 28% of Tax Credit recipients had failed to claim, for similar reasons. That’s a very worrying statistic, as it represents 3 times more than originally anticipated.
DWP, in its latest “Touchbase” bulletin indicates, numbers receiving MM Notices will increase from 30,000 to 80,000 per month, starting December 2023 so by Spring 2024 you should see much more evidence of tenants transferring to Universal Credit. For those claiming Employment Support Allowance, it’s still the case, their migration should not happen until 2028.
We’re fully committed as far as 2023 is concerned but are now taking training bookings for early 2024.
If you’re interested, the details are below:
Each session will last 3 hours and run between 10am – 1pm or 1pm – 4pm .
- What’s a migration notice; who will receive them; how & when this is likely to happen and how you can assist those tenants affected.
- What’s meant by the terms ‘migration day’, ‘first & final deadlines’ and what will happen if tenants fail to comply timeously.
- What happens to notified tenants who separate or single tenants who couple up before deadline dates.
- How to identify those tenants that will need your help and what you can do to ensure seamless transference to UC.
- How to ensure the correct rate of transitional protection and associated 2-week run-ons of IS, ESA, JSA and Housing Benefit are applied.
- What steps can be taken to ensure vulnerable tenants are not overlooked and thus avoid benefit cancellations and lengthy gaps in entitlement.
- Understand, how Transitional Protection can erode over time or sometimes be lost by simple changes in circumstance e.g., couples separating or partners stopping work.
We will also examine several areas of UC administration that currently are causing real concern over the unnecessary rent arrears and overpayments that are being created. We will discuss how tenants wrongly affected can challenge some of this serious malpractice, sometimes caused by IT system design and oversight.
If you require any further information on this or any other aspect of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or phone 07733 080 389.
UC Advice & Advocacy ltd
Phone 07733 080 389 or 01698 424301