From 1st April 2017 some young people who are on Universal Credit under the 'Full'/Digital service will not be able to make a new claim for the Housing Costs Element - although many will ie by being either protected or excluded from these new rules (although this protection/exclusion can end) - see below.
The intention behind the change is to “ensure young people in the benefits system face the same choices as young people who work and who may not be able to afford to leave home.”
took effect from 1st April 2017. ADM 6/17
provides further guidance with details on all the exclusions, including a long but not exhaustive list of potential reasons why a young person may not be able to live with their parents.
Who is affected by this change?
The measure affects:
- Single 18-21 year olds (ie up to the day before 22nd birthday).
- This includes those who are part of a couple but who have to claim as singles - click here.
- Who are claiming UC on the 'Full'/Digital Service (with protection for those moved from the 'Live'/Gateway Service with a HCE or Housing Benefit - see below).
- Who on or after 1st April 2017 need a Housing Cost Element included in their claim ie either by:
- making a new claim for UC, or
- becoming liable for rent whilst on UC,
- Who have been getting a Housing Costs Element included in their award and any protection / exclusion ends.
- Who are a jobseeker expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work or if working are not earning at least the monthly equivalent of the National Minimum wage that applies to them for 16 hours a week,
- Who could live with their parents,
- And are not otherwise excluded - see below.
NOTE: The rules for 16 and 17 year olds remain unchanged.
Which young people are protected from this change?
These new rules only affect claimants on the 'Full'/Digital service, however some 'Full'/Digital service claimants even if not falling under any of the below exclusions, will still not be immediately affected:
The new rules do not apply to:
- Those young people who were getting a Housing Cost Element (HCE) in their 'Full'/Digital Service claim in the Monthly Assessment Period (MAP) including 31st March 2017- who have been on UC with a Housing Costs Element in every MAP since.
But as soon as there is a break in their UC claim, or a break in their award including a HCE they lose this protection.
- Those young people getting a Housing Cost Element in a 'Live'/Gateway Service area, or getting Housing Benefit, immediately prior to a move to Digital (Full) service and that claim includes a Housing Costs Element from the first MAP.
There must be no break between the two claims - not even of one day. As soon as there is a break in their UC claim, or a break in their award including a HCE they lose this protection
Which young people are excluded from this change?
The DWP want to exclude from these provisions any young person who has barriers to work and/or no parental home in which they can live.
Those excluded indefinitely are:
- Care leavers (formerly provided with accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, or in Scotland section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1989, and were living there on their 16th birthday).
- Those who have had domestic violence inflicted upon them or threatened against them, by their partner / former partner or a family member.
Others excluded whilst facing the barrier to work / have no parental home in which they can live are:
- Couples - unless they are having to claim as a single person - click here.
- Those responsible for a child, qualifying young person, or foster child.
- Those who receive daily living PIP (or mid or high rate care DLA) or Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP).
- Those who are subject to MAPPA 2 or 3 (or equivalents in Scotland).
- Those living in temporary accommodation (as defined in the UC Regulations).
- Those unable to live with their parents because they have no parent or because neither parent occupies accommodation as their home in the UK.
- Young people where the DWP consider it inappropriate* for them to live with parents - including, but not limited to, those at a serious risk to their physical or mental health or who would suffer significant harm, if they lived with them.
- Working** young people earning above a earnings threshold, and
- Those who have been in work** for 6 months or more - for the first 6 months after leaving work.
- Those not falling within the 'all work-requirements group' - eg, not: with a limited capability for work/work related activities, full time carer, pregnant and 11 weeks before baby is due, full time apprentice.
- Those who, even if in the all-work related requirements group, have been given their "expected hours" as under 35 per week have a physical or mental impairment, because they have caring responsibilities, are the main carer of a foster child.
- Those who, even if in the all work related requirements group, have had their requirements suspended because: They are in a period of short term sickness, partner/child died in previous 6 months, receiving structured recovery-orientated course of alcohol or drug dependency treatment (max 6 months), receiving medical treatment abroad, on remand or in prison, under police protection, attending court or Tribunal as party to any proceedings or as a witness.
* This will include more than just those 'estranged' from their parents and could include where the parental home is overcrowded, or where the parental home is in an area where it would not be safe or inappropriate for the young person to live.
** The earnings threshold is earning, within the Monthly Assessment Period, a monthly figure equal to or greater than (the appropriate National Minimum wage for 18-20 year olds X 16 hours per week) x 52/12 (or if an apprentice, earning the appropriate National Minimum Wage under the National Minimum Wage regulations on the last day of the assessment period).
Example of earnings threshold
Hannah is in receipt of UC under the 'Full'/Digital service she is aged 19. Her national minimum wage rate is £5.60 an hour. Hannah's comparison earnings are £5.60 X 16 = £89.60, converted to a monthly amount: £89.60 x 52 ÷ 12 = 388.27 per month. This means that if Hannah’s earnings are below £388.27 per month then she will not be exempt from the Housing Cost Element restrictions due to her earnings - but may be protected or fall under another exemption.
What can those affected do?
The DWP have estimated that there will be 10,000 young people affected by this measure.
18-21 year olds who are affected will not be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment as no Housing Costs Element will be included when their Universal Credit award is assessed.
Analysis of the proposal and its implications by Crisis - "The withdrawal of support for housing costs under Universal Credit for young people: more pain for little gain?" here