Welfare Reform and Homelessness

Universal Credit rollout ‘exceptionally challenging’ for landlords

universal credit
Bill Irvine
Written by Bill Irvine

RLA trainer, housing benefit and Universal Credit (UC) expert Bill Irvine returns with news of the full service rollout of the Government’s Universal Credit scheme and warns of challenging times for landlords as they guide tenants through the new process.

He writes:

“The DWP has released details on the next stage in the “digital” or “full service” rollout, identifying each of the Jobcentre areas planned to progress to the full blown service between now and September 2018.

The announcement puts to bed any remaining doubts that the rollout was being further delayed or even shelved by Theresa May’s new government.

The DWP hasn’t provided much more by way of information, but if you wish to check when your own area is expected to go live, examine the list here. 

Clearly this is a critically important announcement, as it will allow you, with some degree of certainty, to initiate talks with the DWP and your local council(s) for the hopefully, smooth transition to the full service.

It should also provide ample time for you to prepare contingency plan and ensure staff are sufficiently knowledgeable about the new scheme, including its many nuances, to offset any potential problems encountered by staff and tenants alike.

The digital system removes the “gateway” conditions, which have so far limited awards (400,000 to October, 2016) to mainly single claimants, so, when full service is activated in your area, expect to see a spike in the number and type of claimants, including families, single parents, people with disabilities, those who secure jobs with low earnings etc.

The digital system also 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.

Assuming the DWP adopts a similar approach to what’s happened so far, you can expect the transition to result in the DWP focusing, first and foremost, on “new” claims from newly unemployed; claimants who lose their legacy benefit, due to a change in circumstances, or claimants who move address to a full service area.

Once that initial exercise is complete, the migration process of forcing people over to Universal Credit will happen on a phased basis.

This latter stage also involves the complicated, but critically important process of “transitional protection” – i.e. ensuring existing claimants, at the point of transfer, are no worse off, moving to Universal Credit.

The expansion of the roll-out will prove exceptionally challenging for social and private landlords alike, as you’ll be expected to support tenants through the new process, with little support from the DWP or indeed local advice agencies, already swamped with welfare reform issues.

No doubt, DWP will issue more details over the next few weeks. If they do, I’ll update you.”

The RLA is running a series of Universal Credit training courses in the new year. The course offers a working knowledge of Universal Credit, looks at how it differs from local housing allowance and explains a host of related matters, including alternative payment arrangements, third party recovery of rent arrears and other issues. For details click here.

Bill Irvine is an RLA trainer and Universal Credit expert. If you require any further information on this or any other aspect of Universal Credit or welfare reform contact bill@ucadvice.co.uk

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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