Good afternoon

Around November last year, I was asked by my housing association client, in London, to assist a young single parent, with 3 young children, who was under threat of eviction for non-payment of rent, had accrued large debts, caused by a cancellation of her UC award, and was being impeded and frustrated in her attempts to have her claim reinstated by a remote and ambivalent DWP that’s staff were unwilling to directly engage with her and her landlord, to remedy the problems.

Previously, she had successfully claimed Universal Credit from December 20 to November 21, following separation from her husband. Problems first arose when she moved address, and her case was referred to DWP’s Risk Review Team (RRT) for validation checks and assessment. You may recall me having highlighted, the chaos and misery this team had inflicted to some other vulnerable tenants I was asked to help.

In this case, despite the joint efforts of the tenant and association’s manager, they were repeatedly thwarted, in their attempts to have her UC “housing costs element” restored. Part of the problem was RRTs unwillingness to engage directly with either tenant or landlord. Communication was restricted to exchanges via the tenant’s journal and phone calls to the General Enquiries line.

Just before I became involved, the tenant and landlord manager responded to the RRTs demands for validation of her and the children’s occupation of their home and costs associated with this. This involved, the following:

  1. Uploading her current tenancy agreement
  2. Re-submitting a change of circumstances note, intimating she has just moved into her current property on 01/08/2022.
  3. Letter from landlord, confirming the tenant and her family’s residence.

The same information had previously been provided by the tenant to Universal Credit. Again, despite complying, the RRT failed to reply. So, the tenant, aided by her housing manager, submitted an online “complaint” on 26th September 2022. This, in turn, quickly prompted further “To-do” lists, which she and the manager responded to, including:

Photo image of tenant taken at the front of her property and one from inside, showing the houses across the road; photo image of tenant standing at front door with property number visible and the door slightly open; ID images of all 3 kids, with passports held next to their face and separate images of their passports with birth certificates; last 3 months bank statements showing tenant’s full name and address; Council tax, water & gas bills at current address and previous 2 other addresses. 

Given the potential threat of eviction, and hardship the family had been experiencing, I wrote directly to DWP’s Directorate, setting out a timeline of what had been happening or not for that matter, the need for some urgency and my willingness to liaise, to help reach a resolution. A senior officer was appointed to investigate and after only one week of involvement, managed to have the claim restored back to November 21, with a payment of around £24K covering both personal and housing elements of her award.

Whilst we are happy to have assisted the tenant, secure the result she was desperate to achieve, and enabling her clear outstanding rent arrears and other debts, accrued due to her lack of UC income, we remain mystified why such a seemingly straightforward case, which took one senior officer, 1 week to resolve, could possibly have languished with RRT for 14 months, going nowhere fast?

Sadly, from the evidence I have seen from other referrals, it won’t be too long before I’m engaged in yet another RRT referral.

If you’re a client of our website and require clarification on any aspect of this case example, please get in touch or phone 07733 080 389

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd