Housing benefits, Universal Credit expert and RLA trainer Bill Irvine has written about the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) faulty IT system in supplying inaccurate information on tenants which sometimes leads to termination of payments unnecessarily. This has led to avoidable arrears. The following article is taken from Bill’s blog which describes DWP’s reaction and what landlords should be aware of:
Almost a year ago, I highlighted the scandal (see my bulletin http://universalcreditadvice.com/ha/2014/11/rent-arrears-caused-by-dwp-maladministration ) of DWP causing, through maladministration, unnecessary cancellations of Housing Benefit (HB), creating, in turn, significant amounts of rent arrears for both social and private landlords and misery and worry for those tenants affected by the error.
As my bulletin, at the time explained, the problem was caused by DWP IT systems wrongly advising council housing benefit sections that Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) had been cancelled when, in fact, it had only been sanctioned. There is an important difference, as, in the case of sanctions, it shouldn’t have affected the HB/LHA (Local Housing Allowance) award as the HB regulations act to recognise and protect the underlying award in such situations. But, in thousands of cases, UK wide, HB was mistakenly being cancelled, resulting in, wholly avoidable rent arrears going through the roof, and tenants being subjected to the worry, anxiety and costs of repossession action, when the fault lay entirely at the doorstep of DWP systems and processes.
So what’s changed?
It would appear the problem has continued unabated, despite adverse publicity, forcing DWP to take remedial action.
It has now officially acknowledged, the concerns expressed by tenant representatives were wholly justified and have issued new instructions, in the form of an URGENT HB Circular, to councils UK wide reinforcing the points I’ve made above and in my earlier bulletin.
- “Claimants who are receiving passported HB should continue to do so without interruption when a sanction is applied.
- A sanction differs from a Disallowance. If a claim is disallowed, the claim and payments cease under the normal rules; there is no underlying entitlement”.
If you’re a social landlord, I would recommend you forward copies of this important document to welfare rights, money advice and income management staff, so they can now take the appropriate action to remedy those past errors, where they still persist. Councils, aware of the issue, should do their level best by revising any decisions, in the past year, where cancellation has been mistakenly applied.
If you’re a private landlord seeking advice on this topic, phone the RLA’s “helpline” or contact me direct for assistance.
Alternatively, if you need more general advice on the challenges posed by Universal Credit or any welfare reform topic, please get in touch by e-mailing email@example.com or phone 07733 080 389.