4th February, 2014
Universal Credit delivery has now been extended to another 6 Pathfinder sites and this process will incrementally progress to other districts, throughout the UK. The “claimant commitment” and associated “benefit sanctions” are already being rolled out to 20,000 Job Centres, creating major problems for both tenants and landlords alike because of sanctions being imposed. Making benefit claims digitally, is now being promoted in Jobcentres, HMRC and councils; with councils, for example, insisting Housing Benefit claims must be submitted online or over the phone, rather than using paper claims. Because the process is still relatively new, social landlords are reporting a considerable increase in documentation going astray and claims being delayed, suspended or cancelled for weeks/months, thus creating gaps in entitlement and rent arrears.
With all the changes, delays & disruption, it’s not surprising social landlords are contacting UC Advice looking to organise training for their frontline troops, so that they can tackle these sometimes contentious problems to protect both tenant(s) and landlord interests.
This one-day course has been specifically tailored for Social Landlord staff and is designed to examine how the new Universal Credit system is likely to operate, in tandem, for the next four or so years, with Housing Benefi. We aim to highlight the potential effects this will have on your tenants, your organisation’s rental income and will make recommendations to prevent the need to consider recovery & enforcement action and the additional costs this entails.
- Impact of the April 2013 changes, including Bedroom Tax, Benefits Cap, Welfare/Crisis Fund, DHPs & 1996 cases
- Universal Credit – how, when & where it will be introduced;
- Who will be able to claim; how claims need to be made; what evidence will be needed; how to assist tenants in that process;
- How claims will be assessed, calculated and paid, including how best to use of bank and Credit Union accounts;
- How notifying annual rent increases will become the responsibility of tenants under UC, rather than the existing HB automatic process between landlords and councils.
- How “Landlord Managed Payment” exceptions can be used to have payments from day one to you, the landlord or be redirected after tenant defaults in payment;
- Conditionality and sanctions – how this might affect the tenant’s willingness to cooperate and your ability to secure & sustain “direct payments” and “third party” deductions.
- How during UC implementation there will be a transitional period, probably until 2019/20, when Housing Benefit will remain a critically important income stream to social landlords (£17 Billion).
- How UC/HB rules on non-dependents, temporary absence, payment on two homes etc, are quite different; sometimes more or less generous.
- How to make the most of DHP and Welfare/Emergency schemes operated outwith Housing Benefit & UC.
- How the move to Universal Credit and the introduction of “claimant commitment” is already undermining existing Housing Benefit administration; what’s likely to happen in the future under UC; and how best to guard against rental loss and the need to pursue recovery & enforcement.
Throughout the day we encourage delegate participation. We use practical exercises and case studies to highlight the main features of Universal Credit. There will be plenty of time for discussion, including advice on how best to tackle issues when they arise. Dealing with DWPs online services and remote “call centres” will almost certainly be more challenging than dealing with “local” authorities. Ultimately, the tutor will aim to ensure delegates are well informed on how to maximise tenant entitlement, reduce the potential for rental income loss and need for recovery action.
Who should attend?
Any member of staff involved in housing management, finance, providing advice & support to tenants and those responsible for collecting rent, pursuing arrears whilst complying with Pre-action protocols (requirements in Scotland).
Bill Irvine was Head of Benefits, Revenues & Advice Services at one of the UK’s largest councils; acted as local government advisor to the Housing Benefit Standing Committee, Westminster; for many years acted as a welfare rights advocate; tutored on HB/Rent Arrears issues, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing. He currently operates HB Advice & Advocacy acting as representative of tenants, Private Landlords and Housing Associations in their respective HB/LHA negotiations with councils and, rather uniquely, represents them in disputes before First and Upper-tier tribunals. He is retained by a number of small/large Housing Associations and also writes regular articles on UC/LHA related topics and responds to Landlord’s queries and complaints via various web-based forums, including his own website www.ucadvice.co.uk
Bill was one of the principal witnesses at the DWP Select Committee, Westminster hearings, relating to Local Housing Allowance in January 2010, where some of his recommendations were adopted as “Good practice” in subsequently produced DWP Guidance.