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Universal Credit - Tackling areas of the scheme most likely to cause Rent Arrears.

This Zoom course focuses on, how some tenants are struggling with the process of maintaining their Universal Credit claims, as DWP embarks on reviewing the legitimacy and accuracy of awards, made during COVID restrictions. DWP through its “Trust & Protect” policy, temporarily relaxed the claimant commitment and validation processes and rules, making it much easier & quicker for claims to be processed and paid. However, this, in turn, created £6 billion in overpayments & fraud in 2020-21, forcing DWP to now back-track and re-evaluate many of the awards.

Part of that process involves tenants being asked to produce validation of their identity, who they are claiming for, copies of tenancy agreements, level of rent charge etc. Many don’t respond properly to journal “To-dos” causing claims to be suspended, cancelled, thus creating more overpayments. As many council and housing association are still operating, at least partly from home, contact with tenants is still very much at arms-length.

A combination of all of these factors, can often lead to claims being wrongly rejected, at the initial stage or being deemed defective, because of the tenant’s failure to respond to “To-do’s” or produce validating information. In the past, when tenants failed to meet DWP’s expectations, SRS staff were available locally and ready to intervene, with a view to resolving the issue and keeping rent arrears to a minimum. Operating in the current environment makes that much more difficult and frustrating for both tenants and staff.

Understanding the claims & payment process; knowing how best to assist tenants, maintain their online claim, via journal, can greatly help to avoid delays, payment issues and disputes, that would otherwise lead to debt accruing. This course has been specifically developed for frontline staff charged with assist tenants in these challenging times.

The session can be delivered via Zoom or Microsoft teams if that’s your preference, in a 3 hour session, from 10-1pm, or 1 – 4pm. Ideally, we would like to restrict delegate numbers to no more than 12 per session, to allow maximum delegate participation.

Course Programme

Key components:

* How to ensure an effective claim and avoid gaps in entitlement, that arise in 20% of cases, when claims are rejected as defective in some way.

* How to ensure the tenant’s Standard Allowance & Housing Costs element are correctly assessed and how, acting as scribe, on behalf of your tenant, you can use the online journal to challenge poor decisions & remedy errors quickly.

*Benefit Assessment Periods; payment dates; impact of changes in circumstances that increase/reduce entitlement; role of landord to “notify” changes seeking “supersession” and “revision”.

* How to avoid unnecessary or wrongly inflated non-dependent deductions; deal with “untidy tenancies”; impact of changes in circumstances, including couples separating, tenants affected by temporary absences in prison, hospital, residential care etc.

*How to secure “explicit consent” and assist tenants seek “revisions” and secure retrospective awards; challenge inflated Third Party deductions; and assist the tenant submit Mandatory Reconsiderations & Appeals, where the tenancy is being put in jeopardy, due to innaccurate adjudication, causing wholly unnecessary rent arrears.

*Pursuing DWP complaints when APAs are cancelled without justification, causing the HCE to be misused, creating avoidable rent arrears.

*Challenging overpayment demands

The course will be delivered via Zoom, in two segments with a 20 minute break. Sessions normally run from 10am-11.30; coffe break; 11.45-1pm ENDS

However, we can accommodate alternative timings.

Attendants

This course will be available from October 2021 and has been designed for staff working in housing & income management teams, welfare rights, money advice & financial inclusion. It’s intended to underline the increasing importance of Universal Credit’s “housing costs element”, in relation to your tenants’ ability to meet their rent liability and the organisations ambitions to maximise rental revenue, minimise rent arrears and the associated costs of recovery action.

The trainer will deliver the course using a PP presentation, exercises, and group discussion. To maximise participation, sessions will be limited to 12 delegates.

Participants will be expected to download Zoom’s App, use a suitable PC or laptop with effective access the internet. Participants will receive an email link, a few days before the start of the course, to allow access to the event, and after the event will be provided with a copy of the PP presentation that includes helpful links to other advice, guidance and videos.

 

Tutor - Bill Irvine

Bill spent 30 years in local government, holding senior positions in Social Work, Housing & Finance. He retired as Head of Housing Services (Benefits, Revenues & Advice) at one of the UK’s largest councils. In 2008 he became a Board Member of Trust HA Ltd and the SFHA and the following year set up a new consultancy business “Housing Benefit Advice & Advocacy” offering advice, training and advocacy to RSL’s and private landlords throughout the UK.

In January 2010 he was invited to provide written and oral evidence to the DWP Local Housing Allowance Inquiry, Westminster, with some of his recommendations being adopted as “best practice”. He now represents RSL’s, Private Landlords, and their tenants before First and Upper-tier HB tribunals, with some of his cases becoming new “caselaw”.

Since January 2012 he has been at the forefront of Universal Credit training for both SRS and Private Sector landlords, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Residential Landlords Association, individual Housing Associations and Charitible bodies, UK wide.

He now owns and operates www.universalcreditadvice.com.  And publishes regular updating bulletins on Universal Credit to more than 1300 registered subscribers