Good morning,

In an earlier bulletin, I advised you that DWP had identified and lettered tenants likely to be adversely affected by the reduction in Benefits Cap thresholds. Letters were issued sometime between 24 May and 10 June, 2016. The letter didn’t specifically identify a starting date for the cap’s imposition, as the process was planned to be phased in, on a geographical basis, starting in the autumn and extending into 2017.

In the past few days, DWP has intimated new data, identifying those most likely to be affected is being issued to councils This will result in new letters being issued between 19th – 29th September, 2016 with the new cap levels being applied from 7th November in some areas, whereas, in others, the start date will be staggered. Your Local Authority should be able to be more specific about the starting date.

It’s anticipated the new notification should provide an indication of the likely impact on claimants’ Housing Benefit and Universal Credit award levels and should encourage those affected to seek advice and assistance, perhaps from Discretionary Housing Payments. Some authorities to their credit have already been working with RSLs & PRS landlords to seek out and assist those affected.

The cap, in the case of Universal Credit, is applied to the whole award and, not simply the Housing Element. Whereas, in Housing Benefit/LHA the cap is restricted to the HB/LHA award with a guarantee, at least 50 pence will be left, so the affected tenant can apply for a DHP to offset their potential loss.

The national DHP fund has been increased in 2017/18 to offset some of the overall benefit change losses. In the case of the Benefits Cap, the DHP included a figure of £25M for 2015/16. This has been increased to £40M for 2017/18. Although welcome, the increase in funding, is unlikely to enough to offset even a fraction of the losses experienced by tenants, especially in those areas out-with Greater London, where until now the Benefit Cap has had little impact; the new levels will certainly change that and further frustrate rent collection for both social and private landlords.

The “new levels” are explained below:

Household made up of a couple (with or without children), or

Lone parent (and the children they look after live with them)

Greater London (the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London)

Cap is £23,000 per annum –  £1,916.67 – per month – £442.31 weekly.

The remainder of Great Britain:

£20,000 per month –  £1,666.67 per month – weekly £384.62

If the claimant is a single person and: Ø they have no children, or Ø the children they look after don’t live with them

Greater London (the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London)

£15,410 per annum –  £1,284.17 per month – weekly £296.35

The remainder of Great Britain

£13,400 per annum –  £1,116.67 per month – weekly £257.69

The usual exemptions apply with a number of welcome additions, affecting Carers and Guardians.

If you have any particular queries about this or any other aspect of the Welfare changes, please contact me or 07733 080 389

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd