The Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element aged 18-21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 – SI 2017/252 – which can be found here were introduced on 2nd March, 2017 and come into effect from 1st April, 2017.

Regulations remove automatic entitlement to housing costs in Universal Credit “Full Service” areas for some 18 to 21 year-olds. However, the adverse impact of the change has been significantly diluted by the fact the new rules only apply in Full Service areas (so don’t apply in areas where the limited “live” service applies) plus, there are a large number of exemptions, protecting many 18-21 year olds, so they can continue to receive housing costs support, now and in the future. The measures being introduced are expected to affect 1000 initially, and 11,000 by the completion of the UC rollout.

The Government justifies the long anticipated move by stating “the new approach is designed to ensure young people in the benefit system face the same choices as other young people who go out to work and cannot yet afford to leave the parental home. This instrument is intended to encourage young people who can stay at home to do so.”

Most housing staff will already be familiar with the distinctions between “Live” and “Full Service” areas. Full Service essentially means where Universal Credit can be claimed, without any of the “gateway” restrictions that apply in “live” areas. In other words, where claims can be made by singles, couples, families with dependent children, people with disabilities and all other claimant types. At the minute, Full Service is restricted to only a few areas of GB, but during 2017, and especially 2018, the number of areas affected will significantly expand to encompass all areas by autumn 2018.

See my earlier bulletin—high-importance which includes a link to the rollout timetable.

To put it simply, housing costs will be excluded ONLY where: The claimant lives in a Full Service area; is between 18-21 and claiming as a single adult; and subject to the “all work requirement” i.e. he/she is required to actively seek work for 35 hours each week.


The Government has made a long list of exemptions to the rule which can be primarily found in Regulations 2 (4B & 4C). The key exemptions apply where:

1. Claimant is an orphan or their parents live abroad; and

2. It would be inappropriate for the claimant to live in the parental home including where there would be a serious risk to the claimant’s physical or mental health, or the claimant would suffer significant harm, if the claimant lived with them.

3. Claimant is “Vulnerable”, described as:

a) Responsible for a child or a qualifying young person;

b) Care leaver before reaching the age of 18;

c) Receives the care component of disabilityliving allowance at the middle or highest rate or the daily living component of personal independence payment;

d) Subject to active multi-agency management (arrangements for managing risks posed by certain offenders);

e) Is in temporary accommodation provided by a local authority pursuant to their homelessness duties;

f) Subject to, or threatened with, domestic violence by their partner, former partner, or a family member.

g) Due to caring responsibilities or physical or mental impairment, the number of hours the claimant is expected to work is less than 35 per week.

h) Where the claimant has suffered a bereavement within the past 6 months;

i) Those undertaking treatment for an addiction, or where they have provided medical evidence that they are currently unfit for work (for up to 14 days).

The above list is not exhaustive. The explanatory note, which is associated with regulations, confirms DWP will be producing guidance in the form of – Advice to Decision Makers – to ensure the policy is properly applied, taking into account the different types of exemptions. It remains to be seen just how effective this will be given the extent of misunderstanding which currently exists within DWP administrative ranks. Consequently, it’s vitally important housing staff are familiar with exactly who is and not affected by this policy change.

As a good starting point, housing staff should know, the new rules definitely DON’T apply to claimants:

  • Currently in receipt of Housing Benefit or those receiving Universal Credit in Live Service areas;
  • Currently receiving help with housing costs (via Housing Benefit or the Universal Credit Live Service) immediately prior to a move to Full Service status;
  • Currently residing in Full Service areas where their award of Universal Credit includes the housing costs element when this new rule comes into force (April, 2017). However, where such a claimant benefits from this transitional provision has a break in claim or his/her award doesn’t include a “housing costs” element, they lose the protection.

As always, if you require clarification on this or any other aspect of welfare reforms please get in touch or 07733 080 389.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd