Good morning,

A common question I receive nowadays, from my Housing Association clients, relates to the recent change (from 3rd August, 2015) whereby in “new” claims for Universal Credit, the claimant has to wait 7 days before his eligibility to UC will start. Some of you are clearly under the belief that the “7 days” delay applies to all claims after August 2015, meaning tenants would need to wait 1 month, plus 14 days before receiving payment. The fact is, the new rule doesn’t affect as many people as some of you first thought – a relief, I’m sure, for those responsibe for collecting rent !

The rules, to say the least, are complex and relate to the Universal Credit (Waiting days) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015 No. 1362). The changes came into force on 3.8.15. DWP issued a memo to staff explaining how the new rule should work and who exactly can claim exemption from it.

In an attempt to make it more understandable, the rule mainly applies to claimants who have only recently become unemployed and are, for the first time, seeking work. The 7 days won’t apply to those already in receipt of the various legacy benefits which will be replaced by Universal Credit, so that when they’re migrated over to Universal Credit, in future years, the normal rule of 1 month + 7 days will apply instead.

Also, for those already claiming Universal Credit, let’s say as a couple, who decide to split up, and claim separately, the 7 day rule does NOT apply. Equally, it doesn’t apply where two individuals, currently claiming UC, decide to combine their households and claim as a couple. In cases like these the normall rules apply, although they themselves need to be carefully explained as the approach can be quite difficult to follow. DWP has, in fact, changed their approach due to the probing of some interested parties, like me.

Some of you who have attended my UC briefing sessions will remember some of the case examples I use to illustrate what happens. One of the cases involves a fictional couple – Katie & Tom. One of my Powerpoint slides explains what happens when the couple split under the “whole month” rule and is copied below:

Tom & Katie reside in a two bed Housing Association property with their two kids, under 10. Tom’s name is on the tenancy agreement. He and Katie claim Universal Credit jointly and receive an award including his “housing element”, payable normally on the 9th of each month.

So, what happens to the UC if they split? You’ll find the answer below:

}Tom and Katie claim and are entitled to UC as a couple. Their monthly benefit assessment period (BAP) is the 3rd to 2nd of each month; payment date – 9th.

}They cease to be a couple on 21st October.

}Tom rings up to notify DWP of this on that date.

}The Decision Maker terminates the award of UC (as a couple) from the first day of the assessment period in which this change occurs – namely 3 October!

}Tom must make a new claim to UC (on 21st) as a single person as he phoned to report the change. He makes a claim by telephone and is awarded UC from 3 October (i.e. he asks for payment to start from 3rd so that he does not lose out financially) and is paid from 3rd to 20th October on a proportional basis (24/31sts).

}His new BAP runs from 21st to 20th and is paid normally on 27th of each month.

}Katie continues to receive Universal Credit, including the “housing element” but as a single parent. She retains her BAP and usual payment date, so receives her UC award from 3 October to 2nd November, paid on the 9th of the month, as before. 

}She does not have to make a new claim. Her award of UC is initially suspended until her circumstances are confirmed to the DWP. She also receives the “housing element” as she’s assuming the liability for rent in the absence of the liable person. Similar to what happens just now in housing benefit.

NB – Had she made the phone call to DWP she would have to have made the new claim whereas, Tom would have retained the old BAP and 9th payment date!

Although DWP staff have been advised of the various exceptions to the new rule, be sure to check they’ve applied the exemption, otherwise, you could encounter a further week’s unnecessary rent arrear.

I explain all these things, in greater detail, for Housing Association staff, particularly those responsible for income management and rent arreas control, during our day course—key-risks-to-tenants-and-rsl-management-explained-1 so if you’re not too sure about this, get in touch by emailing or phone 07733 080 389.