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Newsletters: December 2016

December 2016 Newsletter

Season's Greetings and welcome to this month's newsletter packed full of useful benefit information.

In this issue find out more about:

  • UC & found fit for work- important issues for claimants to consider.
  • Universal Credit- and issues with claiming contributory benefits.
  • APA Managed Payments- do these need to end to allow a DHP?
  • DID YOU KNOW?- what happens to post sent in to the DWP?
  • DID YOU KNOW?- ESA does not need to be in payment for a WRAG/Support component to be included in a HB assessment.

As well as:

  • Your chance toWIN £50for your localFOOD BANK.
  • This month'sreally usefulstandard letter.
Universal Credit and Being Found Fit for Work

We will have more on this in our next newsletter - in brief:

1. Where an ESA claimant moves onto UC, any component should also move with them (assuming they have not been found fit for work etc).

2. Where an ESA claimant is found fit, claims UC, and challenges the 'fit for work' decision and wins, their UC should be adjusted to include the relevant Limited Capability for Work Element back to the date of their UC claim.

3. Where an ESA claimant is found fit, if they request a mandatory reconsideration and DO NOT make a claim for Universal Credit whilst this is being considered, then, if the DWP find in the claimant's favour; or if the claimant then goes on to appeal the decision, they should go back onto ESA.

Claiming Contributory Benefits
- how it works now we have Universal Credit


Universal Credit is a means tested benefit - ie based on the claimant/s' income and personal circumstances - either to provide an income to those who have no income or to top up an existing income - which could be earnings, benefit income or a combination.

Whilst one of the reasons Universal Credit is being introduced is said to be to simplify the benefit system - suggesting it is replacing a large number of existing benefits - it is, in fact, replacing just six: Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit - all means tested benefits.

Universal Credit is NOT replacing any of the contributory benefits.

The contributory benefits can still be claimed either instead of or alongside Universal Credit - with Universal Credit providing the 'top-up' that many on contributory benefits need to support a partner, to support children or to pay their rent or mortgage.

The majority of the contributory benefits continue to be claimed in the 'normal' way - these include: Bereavement Allowance;New State Pension; and Widowed Parents Allowance.

So what aboutContribution Based Jobseekers Allowance and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance?

Contribution Based Jobseekers Allowance and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance can still be claimed BUT there are issues with claiming them.

We have come across cases where the wrong advice is being given to claimants regarding these two contributory benefits - some are being told that these benefits do not exist any more (which is wrong because they do!).

Both CB-JSA and C-ESA still exist - regardless of where the claimant lives and what other benefits they maybe claiming - a new claim can still be made for them.

But how you claim them and the possible impact they have on the UC award depends on whether the claimant is on a 'Live'/Gateway or 'Full'/Digital Universal Credit service.

The key issues are:

1. Some people entitled to claim CB-JSA or C-ESA are being told that these benefits do not exist anymore (and are told to claim Universal Credit instead).

2. A claim for Universal Credit will trigger the end to any of the benefits the claimant is already getting that UC is replacing - in particular Tax Credits and Housing Benefit - and they could be worse off.

3. In the 'Full'/Digital service area a claim for CB-JSA or C-ESA is made 'through' the Universal Credit system ie by making a claim for Universal Credit - and so the claimant must answer questions about their (and their partner's) financial situation which they maynot be happy to do - and there is a risk that they are also seen to be making a claim for Universal Credit, even when they do not want to.

We have detailed what we understand to be the procedure on the website -click here.
Open Training courses - get booked on!

We still have a few places left on our forthcoming open courses being hosted by
South Liverpool Housing, inSpeke, South Liverpool:

Welfare Reform Update & Review
Wednesday 11th January

EEA Nationals and UC/HB
Wednesday 18th January

Calculating Universal Credit
Friday 20th January

Click herefor the outlines.

Book a place forjust £95+vatper delegate.
emailinfo@housingsystems.co.uk


APA Managed Payments- do they have to stop before a DHP can be awarded ?
We have received a high number of queries about this matter recently.

A numberofLocal Authorities are stating that they will refuse applications for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) from a Universal Creditclaimant with an APA managed payment to landlord in place unless theAPA managed payment is cancelled.

We believe adopting a blanket policy such as this is wrong and can be challenged.

What has triggered this policy?

In September, in preparation forthe Benefit Cap limit being reduced in November, the DWP wrote to Local Authorities:
"Universal Credit claimants will also be notified of the changes in September 2016. The Universal Credit notifications ask the claimant to speak to their Jobcentre Plus work coach if they have a managed payment to the landlord (MPTL) in place so that the work coach can explain how the benefit cap interacts with the MPTL.In some cases this discussion may lead to the claimant asking for the MPTL to be stopped by DWP, so that they can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. If the claimant chooses to do so, the direct payment to landlord can be reinstated at a later point, though the landlord cannot ask for the MPTL to be reinstatedunless the benefit cap no longer applies."

As far as we are aware, this is the only formal guidance from the DWP to Local Authorities.

We are assuming the thinking behindthis guidance is as follows: Discretionary Housing Payments can be paid where the UC claimant "appears to (the) authority to require some further financial assistance….in order to meet housing costs"(Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations), therefore if an APA managed payment is in place that covers the full eligible rent (ie gross rent less ineligible service charges) then the claimant may find it difficult to demonstrate that they require further financial help with their rent.

If the claimant's APA managed payment is covering their full eligible monthly rent, and so requests that the APA Managed Payment arrangement is ended in order that their DHP application can be considered, it would be advisable that a request is made for any DHP award to be paid direct to the landlord.See standard letterUC DHP2(under Housing Costs).

And remember, the LA should look at the claimant's overall income and expenditure;a DHP can be awarded at an amount up to the maximum eligible Housing Cost Element, so if the claimant/family is strugglingthere is no reason why they cannot apply for the maximum amount (althoughthere is no guaranteethat this will be paid). See standard letterUC DHP2(under Housing Costs).

If the LA decides not to award a DHP, then the claimant can request that the APA managed payment be re-instated - please see Standard LetterUC DHP3(under Housing Costs).

Where the claimant does need to end the APA managed payment in order to apply for a DHP, timing will be crucial. The best time to ask the DWP to end the arrangement and apply for a DHP will be just after the Universal Credit payment has been made to the claimant. This then gives the LA a two/three week 'window' in which to make their decision on the DHP application - and if it is refused the claimant can then ask the DWP to re-instate the APA managed payments - which could all be done in time for the next monthly payment.

What if the APA Managed Payment does not cover the eligiblerent?

Many claimants' APA managed payments do not cover the full monthly eligible rent, eg. due to the Bedroom Tax or non-dependant deductions. It is clearlyeasier for those whose APA managed payment does not cover the full eligible rent to demonstrate that they 'require some further financial assistance….in order to meet housing costs’.

We believethat in such cases the Local Authoritycannot insist that the APA managed payment arrangement should be stopped before they will consider the DHP application.

However, we have heard of cases where this has happened; we feel that the guidance is being misinterpretedand this misconception appears to be spreading.

We have devised a standard letterUC DHP1(under Housing Costs)that can be used if a LA is refusing to look at a DHP application in this situation (which has already been used successfully).

Example:
Danny and Gill claim UC for themselves and 3 children aged 16, 13 & 10. Danny has a limited capability for work;Gill is looking for work. Their rent is £520 per month. They live in a 4 bedroom house; since their eldest son moved out a few months ago, their UC Housing Cost Element has been reduced by 14% £72.80 (to £447.20).

Their only income is Child Benefit of £208.43 per month. The lower Benefit Cap has now reduced their UC award from £1812.62 to £1458.24.

Over the last few months they have been struggling financially. They have various debts including rent arrears;APA managed payments (£447.20 per month) and third party deductions are in place to their landlord.

You have advised them to apply for a DHP.

The DHP decision maker should:

1. Decide they areeligible to apply fora DHP because they are entitled to some UC and they are liable to pay rent. There is no reason (and no regulations) to require that the APA managed payments arestopped before the DHP application can be considered, as theydonot cover their full eligible rent; in factto stop the managed payments wouldput their tenancy at further risk.
2. Consider whether to award a DHP by looking at the family's overall income and expenditure and work out by how much they are struggling.
The family have lost a total of £427.18 per month due to the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, however the decision maker should approach their decision in a more holistic way and look at their overall needs:the familyhavedebts andDanny has health problems,all of which should be taken into account. A DHP can be awarded for an amount up to the eligible housing costs, so in this case a DHP of up to £520 per month could be possible.
Your chance to win £50for your local food bank

Every month we giveyou the chance towin £50for your local food bank.Last month's winner wasfrom Hyde Housing.

Don't know which your local food bank is? Don't worry - we can find out for you.

Just email the answer (A, B or C)to the question below to us byFriday 13th Januaryfor your chance to win.

The winner will be selected at random and can nominate a food bank of their choice to receive a £50cheque fromus, and will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

This month's question is:


Which one of the following Universal Credit claimants shouldbe affected by the waiting days ?

A.Joe has been on ESA for 2 years but was recently found fit for work - he was advised to claim UC, which he did.

B.Helen was working and claiming Tax Credits but her contract has come to an end - she has applied for Universal Credit.

C.Tamil has just finished work - his only income is Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit due to an injury he sustained several years ago- he is making a new claim forclaim Universal Credit as a new jobseeker.

D. Sandy has just left her partner due to domestic violence - she has been advised to claim Universal Credit.

Find your answer on the website -
click hereand email it to:

info@housingsystems.co.uk
This month's useful standard letter

With hundreds of useful standard letters on the website it would be surprising if you were aware of all of them.

So each month we are going to feature just one.

This month's letter is:
GOP3


Use this letter where the HB Office are asking you to repay an overpayment that has occurred when a tenant has left a property before their tenancy officially ended. The letter requeststhatthe amount of the overpayment is reduced by any HB for notice period the tenant wasentitled to.
Click herefor more information.

Did you Know?

What happens to post sent to the DWP?
If youassisttenants with welfare benefitsyou will be aware that, for most benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, their address is a mail handling centre in Wolverhampton.

So, whether your tenant is, for example, notifying the Universal Credit departmentof a change in their circumstances, sending in evidence to support their Employment and Support Allowance claimorrequesting a reconsideration of their Personal Independence Paymentdecision, all of these letters are sent to the same mail handling centre. Post that arrives there should bescanned andelectronic copies of the documents should then be sentto the relevant benefit departments for action.

This process relies on the operators recognising which department the document should be sent to and then sending it. We are aware that post is sometimes 'lost' - in many cases it is then found again. But significant delays in processing do result from post being 'lost'.

What should you adviseyour tenants?

Apart from the common-sense advice:to clearly mark any post with the claimant's name, national insurance number, address, date of birth and the benefit which the document relates to and to keep records of what the claimant has done and when,it also is good practice to ring the relevant departmentto check that the post has been received by them and the matter is being dealt with. Do not assume that once a form or letter has been sent by post that it will reach the right department within a couples of days.

If a claimant loses out financially due to post being lost, they can write to complain and request compensation for their loss.
Did you know?

HB & WRAG/Support Component


To have the WRAG or Support Component included when a claim for HB is assessed the claimant (or their partner) does not have to be actually getting paid ESA.

The relevant component should be included where they have made a claim for ESA and been found unfit for work and have not since that decision been found fit for work (or been treated as fit for work).

This means that claimants who: move onto a different contributory benefit such as Bereavement Allowance; or whose Contributory ESA ends after 12 months, should still have the relevant component included when their HB is assesssed - giving a higher award of HB.

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