Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
Problem Areas: General Issues

The Work and Pensions Committee wrote to Damian Green MP on 26th April 2017 outlining the problems that Universal Credit can cause for claimants, including the long wait for payment, the 7 waiting days, poor communication with landlords, and the interaction with temporary accommodation. Letter here

As well as the problems listed below which are common across both the  old Live / Gateway UC service and the Full / Digital UC service - there are also some problems that related to the 'Full'/Digital UC service only so if you work in a 'Full'/Digital service area please also read this page.


We are aware that the following could be issues: 

Wrongly advised to claim/not claim UC

The rules around who can and cannot make a claim for Universal Credit are very confusing; as a result some people are incorrectly advised by the DWP, HMRC, Local Authority or advice agency.
As some people can be worse off on UC this can have a dramatic impact on the claimant and their ability to pay their rent. More here.
If someone ends up on Universal Credit when they should have claimed or remained on 'legacy benefits' instead, and as a result they are financially worse off they should check to see if they can 'escape the lobster pot' and / or claim compensation. There may be some claimants who have spent time being 'ping ponged' between different departments without any benefits and therefore have missed out on benefits they should have been claiming, these claimants should be advised to make a complaint and request compensation: click here for more information.

Click here for more information on who can claim.


Delays in submitting claim

When claiming online it is easy for the claimant to think that their claim has been made. However, until the claimant presses 'submit' which appears after the declaration and therefore after all the other information has been submitted, the claim for UC is not made. As the date of claim determines the start of the Monthly Assessment Period this will mean missing out on a day's worth of Universal Credit for each day the claim is delayed.  More on date of claim here.  More on how to claim in Full Service (Digital) areas here.

Delays can occur where a claimant cannot get to a computer to claim online in time (for example if they live in a rural area), or if they need to return to their claim because they do not have sufficient information; or if they have not been able to provide sufficient evidence within a calendar month of their claim and the claim is withdrawn - more here.

Landlords and support agencies can help by:
  • Providing online access in their own offices.
  • Providing a list of places people can go for help with the claim, and for digital training.
  • Liaising with local Job Centres to find out if claimants will be given assistance at the Job Centre.
  • Allowing claimants to use their telephones.
  • Where they know someone is likely to be claiming UC soon, advising them on what they need to do to claim.

Making sure a Housing Costs Element is included

The old Live / Gateway service claim asked 'Do you pay rent or eligible charges to live in your home?' If the claimant answered 'NO'- and many have (how often have you heard a tenant say 'I don't pay rent'), then the claim would not have asked for any more information about their rent etc and no Housing Costs Element will be included when their Universal Credit award is assessed. Use Standard Letter UC HM1 (Note - if getting UC under the Full / Digital service the claimant should make this request through their on-line UC account) for claimants to request a revision to include the Element back to the date of claim if this happens - we have no guarantee this argument will be accepted but it is worth trying and has been successful.

'Untidy tenancies' ie where name of claimant/s does not match name on tenancy agreement

The DWP will not include a Housing Costs Element - or where it is an ongoing claim, will suspend it  - where the claimant's name is different from that on the tenancy agreement, until the matter is resolved. 

Landlords can help by:
  • Going through their records to ensure data is up-to-date.
  • Providing supporting letters a claimant can take with their Tenancy Agreement to explain the name change (eg through marriage) or asking for the claimant to be treated as liable for rent.

Joint tenancies - one tenant leaves

The DWP are generally refusing to accept the remaining tenant as liable for 100% of the rent unless and until the tenancy is put in the other person's sole name - which isn't always possible to do straight away. But if the tenancy agreement states that the tenants have joint and several liability there is no reason why they should not based the Housing Cost Element on 100% of the eligible rent. More here and here with a link to standard letter UC HCE3 (Note - if getting UC under the Full / Digital service the claimant should make this request through their on line UC account).

Different rent figures given by landlord and claimant

Unless the rent has been verified by the landlord vis the Landlord Portal, the DWP will not include a Housing Costs Element - or where it is an ongoing claim, will suspend it - where the figures given by the landlord differ from that given by the claimant until the matter is resolved.

  • Providing up to date information on rent figures to claimants
  • Providing verified information about the rent (including a service charge breakdown where appropriate) directly to the DWP.

Deductions for 'old' DWP debts

Where a claimant has an outstanding DWP debt - such as a Social Fund loan - the DWP can and will recover this from on-going UC payments. The deduction rates for a Social Fund loan should be the same but note that many deduction rates - eg overpayment recovery and third party deductions for rent arrears, are higher under UC so the total taken off someone's UC where several deductions apply can be quite high. More on deduction rates here.

Carers being told they must be on Carer's Allowance to get Carer Element

This is not correct - click here.
But note that the person they are caring for will lose any severe disability premium they have, if their carer receives the Carer Element in their UC award,

Getting the 'relevant period' started when long term sick - sending in a 'fit' note not enough

Although DWP operational guidance states that a claimant will be referred for a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) when a fit note covering 28 days or more has been received, we have heard reports that the process to instigate a WCA is not happening unless the WCA is specifically requested. 

Also, where the claimant is aware that they are going to be unable to work due to ill health for the foreseeable future they can request they are referred for a WCA straight away - but are not made aware of this.

This delays the start of the 'relevant period' meaning a delay in having the Limited Capability for Work / Work Related Activities Element added to the UC assessment.

If doctors are supplying shorter period 'fit notes' - even for a longer term illness - these will not trigger the start of the relevant period. More information here

Click here for standard letter UC CC3 to complain about the delay, where it appears to be an error, and see standard letter UC CC4 (Note - if getting UC under the Full / Digital service the claimant should make this request through their on line UC account) if the element was awarded later because the request for a WCA was ignored at first.

Getting conditionality switched off due to change in circumstances when this is at the discretion of the work coach.

If it is likely to be a short period of sickness any work related requirements ie conditionality agreed on their Claimant Commitment should be temporarily "switched off" for 14 days (so long as no more than 2 of these within 12 months) - but any longer period than this is at the DWP work coach's discretion. So it is possible that the work coach might not accept they are still unfit for work, even with a fit note.
(If a fit note runs for more than 28 days the DWP should set up an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment - see above.)
More on when a claimant becomes unfit here.

Getting the Child Element included when the claimant has a new baby or takes on responsibility for a child / young person

We have been made aware that when a Universal Credit claimant has a new baby or takes on responsibility for a child / young person the DWP are refusing to include a Child Element (and presumably the Disabled Child Element or Child Care Costs Element) in the UC award until the claimant has been awarded Child Benefit.

The trouble with this is that Child Benefit claims can take many weeks to be put into payment.
This means parents are being left to support a new born or new child / young person to their household without receiving the extra financial support they are entitled to and need!!

There is nothing in the Universal Credit Regulations that confirms this approach.

In fact, what the Universal Credit Regulations do say is that a Child Element should be included (subject to the two child limit rules) for each child / young person the claimant is responsible for (Reg 24, UC Regs). And the Regulations define this as follows: A person is responsible for a child or qualifying young person who normally lives with them. (Reg 4, UC Regs).

Whilst being in receipt of Child Benefit may be an indication that a child / young person is living with the claimant – the Child Benefit rules do not state that Child Benefit can only be paid where the child / young person is living with the claimant – someone can get Child Benefit for a child that is not living with them in certain circumstances. 

Indeed, the DWP’s own UC Guidance correctly states when deciding where a child is normally living who is getting the Child Benefit is not relevant – para F1010 of the Advice for Decision Makers states: 
‘“Normally lives” is not defined in legislation and should be given the meaning that a child or qualifying young person normally lives with a person where they spend more time with that person than with anyone else. Note: which person gets CHB is not taken into account. ’

So what should a UC claimant do if the DWP are refusing to include a Child Element until the Child Benefit is put into payment?
If the claimant can provide some other evidence that the child / young person is living with them eg hospital discharge notice, letter from social worker / heath visitor / midwife / doctor / school etc – we see no reason why the DWP have to wait for Child Benefit to be put into payment.

If you are working with a UC claimant who is struggling to get a Child Element included in their UC award because the Child Benefit has not yet been awarded – then please use our standard letter UC HM2 copy the text into their journal and we would suggest they let their MP know (Note - if getting UC under the Full / Digital service the claimant should make this request through their on line UC journal. You can also make a formal complaint about the way the claim has been handled to the  Complaints Resolution Team (who should help resolve the matter quickly).

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