Opinion Welfare Reform and Homelessness

Universal Credit problems as roll out begins

universal credit
Bill Irvine
Written by Bill Irvine

Every week that passes, I meet and discuss Universal Credit’s implementation and operational nuances, with housing association staff, private landlords and agents. On every occasion, we unveil more and more complexities and anomalies, damaging to rent collection, which, most likely, will create significant rent arrears.

Landlords complain of a DWP administration, operating at arms-length, which is ill-prepared, making schoolboy errors, and generally impeding and frustrating their attempts at improving communication and performance.

DWP staff’s lack of an appreciation of the complexity and importance of the “housing costs” element is becoming more and more apparent. There’s also a lack of empathy being shown to tenants and landlord staff alike, when problems are encountered. Escalating issues to DWP hierarchy is not nearly as effective as it should be.

As predicted, DWP’s over-reliance on Data Protection and “claimant confidentiality” is preventing landlords’ access to what’s happening with new tenant claims, APAs and Third Party requests.

Recent data sharing regulations which should have helped to improve communications and relations are not always being adhered to, resulting in no or delayed notifications of tenant awards.

Tenant mandates, designed to permit landlord access to claim information, are not being accepted, completely undermining staffs’ attempts to assist those tenants experiencing problems.

The very real threat posed by “claimant commitments and associated sanctions”, have yet to show their teeth.

When they do, landlords expect tenants will simply use the “housing element” to offset the loss of the tenant’s “standard allowance”, defeating the whole purpose of the sanction, and putting tenancy sustainment in jeopardy.

At present, there are 225,000 recipients of Universal Credit. Of that number, only 20% have “housing costs”. So, in terms of UC’s impact, we’re really only seeing, at present, the tip of the iceberg. However, starting this month, Universal Credit’s digital system commences its national roll-out; initially five Jobcentres a month until December, 2016.

From January, 2017 that number increases tenfold, to 50 Jobcentre areas each month.

In my most recent members’ bulletin I explain:

“The digital system removes the “gateway” conditions which have so far limited claims to mainly single claimants, so the number and type of claimants, including families, people with disabilities, should increase dramatically.

“The digital system operates under different rules with claims being made, in the majority of cases, online, whereas current claims are mainly processed by DWP staff in Jobcentres.

“The roll-out will prove exceptionally challenging for Social Landlord staff who will be expected to support tenants through the new process with little support from DWP or local advice agencies who are already swamped”.”

 

If you require any further information on this or any other aspect of Universal Credit or welfare reform, get in touch bill@ucadvice.co.uk or 07733 080389.

About the author

Bill Irvine

Bill Irvine

Bill has quickly become known as a very effective Welfare Rights Advocate. He has been involved in most of the major social security changes since the early 80’s when Housing Benefit was first introduced. As well as offering advice and assistance to landlords, primarily in the RSL/PRS sectors, he also provides representation when disputes can’t be resolved through negotiation and where they have to be progressed through the formal tribunal process, initially to First Tier and, if necessary, through to Upper Tier level where some of his cases have proved to be of national importance to disadvantaged groups.

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