Bill is an ex-Head of Housing Services at one of the UK’s largest councils (40,000 tenancies) and Advisor to the Housing Benefit Standing Committee, Westminster. He provided both written and oral evidence to the DWP Select Committee Inquiry into the operation of Local Housing Allowance (LHA), with many of his recommendations having been adopted and promoted as good practice, by DWP. More recently, we’ve been at the forefront of all training and advice relating to Universal Credit, through CIH, RLA and our own marketed and in-house courses.
We’ve also been heavily involved in helping landlords (social & private) challenge DWP’s often incompetent handling of Universal Credit’s “Housing Costs Element” on a number of levels. By making use of the DWP’s Mandatory Reconsideration and Complaints Processes, we’ve been instrumental in overturning poor decision making by its staff.
To date, every case we’ve pursued on behalf of clients, with the The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) have produced 100% success, in so far as ICE upheld our respective complaints. However, although finding DWP guilty of maladministration, we’ve yet to secure full compensation for our clients’ losses. The problem is, ICE believes it’s innappropriate to compensate commercial companies, using the public purse. This, despite the fact, it was the incompetence of DWP that caused a misuse of public funds in the first place, by continuing to make payment to tenants, who had demonstrated they could not be trusted to manage their “housing costs element” correctly. One positive outcome has emerged, in that DWP’s flawed “explicit consent” policy, has subsequently been withdrawn in relation to APA administration. A big step in the right direction.
The DWP still does not truly recognise the rights of landlords in relation to disputes involving Universal Credit, believing instead that its customers are simply the claimants and no one else. Its unwillingness to freely exchange information with landlords, combined with its insistence on “explicit consent” in the general administration process, not once, but repeatedly, frustrates and impedes staff in their attempts to assist their tenants in relation to disputed claims and awards.
We, through years of experience and know-how, are able to secure results, sometimes within days, whereas, others have struggled to secure even an acknowledgement.
If this is an area where you do not have the specialist skills in-house, we can provide a complete solution, including initial mediation, and, where necessary, representation to councils and/or DWP, at the reconsideration stage, right through to full representation before First and Upper tier tribunals, if any dispute remains unresolved. We normally charge on a No win, No fee basis, charging a commission of 15% to 25% on the value of any additional Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance paid at the point of settlement or, in the case of UC/HB/LHA overpayments, the value of any money saved on your behalf.
If this is a service that you think might be of value to you and your organisation, please contact us.
For the past year, in particular, we have been heavily engaged in assisting HAs and Co-ops review their existing staffing structures and resources, and associated policies and practices, in preparation for the move to Full Service delivery. “Live” service has taken 5 years to fully implement. The slow burn, low numbers and comparative simplicity of cases transferring has allowed many clients to reduce or eradicate any rental losses they initially encountered. But, they recognise Full Service as a real threat, as it will apply, in some cases, to between 50-70% of their general needs caseload by the expected date of completion in 2023.
As well as providing mitigation training, we have helped to produce briefing materials (eg newsletters, bulletins, bespoke leaflets, letter inserts) geared towards tenants, and designed to explain, in the simplest of terms, the likely impact of the proposed changes and importance of working with their landlords.
Having had first hand experience of ALL welfare reform developments, over the past thirty years (e.g. introduction of Housing Benefit, abolition of Supplementary Benefit, its replacement with Income Support, change from Rates Rebate to Community Charge Rebate; and, more recently, to Council Tax Benefit; introduction of the Local Housing Allowance etc.) we can clearly demonstrate that we have the necessary know-how to assist HAs and Co-ops meet the difficult challenges ahead.
We can offer bespoke packages and/or in-house training specifically tailored to meet a specific need, covering areas such as income maximisation, rent arrears control, including Pre-action protocols/requirements. We can also advise you how best to mediate/represent on behalf of tenants in their disputes with Council Housing Benefit sections and DWP’s remote regional offices when Universal Credit’s Full Service takes greater hold and makes a greater impact on both the tenant’s income and your life-blood, rental income!
Our charges are based on either daily or, if you prefer, hourly/daily rates.