Good evening

As you may already know, DWP has effectively suspended Third Party Deductions, including amounts for rent arrears, service charges, fuel debts etc. for 1 month, running from 10th April to 10th May, at which point, they should automatically resume, without any effort on the part of tenants or landlords.

You may recall my 1st of April bulletin, when I highlighted DWP’s decision to suspend HMRC, Council and DWP’s overpayment recoveries via its Debt Management Service. Some of you asked if I could clarify, with DWP, if Third Party Deductions (TPDs) would be affected. DWP confirmed neither Managed Payments nor Rent Arrears deductions were affected.

However, around a week ago, a number of my housing association clients contacted me to say, DWP had changed its mind, due to the COVID related hike in claim numbers, and was planning to suspend rent arrears deductions. Some were told it would be for three months. Others heard existing deductions would not be affected but any new requests would be suspended.

In a further attempt to seek clarity, I contaced DWP hierarchy. I was told there was a degree of uncertainty, in relation to the detail, but its Policy Unit were preparing a briefing note for “housing providers” and other stakeholders, for imminent publication. Needless to say, that publication still has not arrived.

Instead, landlords and their support bodies, need to rely on claimant “journal” postings, for the detail, thanks to West of Scotland HA’s, Welfare Rights Service.

In it, DWP states:

“In normal circumstances, you will be aware that we make a deduction from your monthly payment to help pay off your debts with third parties – landlords or utility companies, for example. We have made the decision to pause these deductions from payments for one month from 10 April, so you may have already noticed a change in your payment.

These deductions are taken manually each month and require significant staff resource which is why they have been paused. This is a temporary measure that will allow us to process and pay the unprecedented number of new claims we have had because of the coronavirus pandemic. We will tell the relevant third parties why this is happening this month.

If possible we would encourage you to pay them directly as this will help with budgeting purposes. You can contact the third party directly to discuss how to make a payment.

If you have a court fine, repayments from Universal Credit will also be paused this month. You do not need to call HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) about this.

This does not affect deductions for UC advances as these are made automatically and will continue as normal.

All third party deductions will resume next month, starting from 10 May.”

A less than satisfactory way to find out, but better than nothing in the circumstances. No doubt the official version will arrive after the resumption date.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd