Due to the Coronavirus some people are stuck abroad and struggling to get back to the UK.
There has been no change to the HB regulations, however, we have heard that there is some internal guidance to Housing Benefit staff, advising that they can continue to pay HB where the claimant is stuck abroad and is unable to return due to the Coronavirus travel restrictions. Also, in answer to a parliamentary question about UC for people stuck abroad due to Covid-19,, Baroness Stedman Scott said on 29 July 2020:
"The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continues to support existing benefit recipients in exceptional cases where their absence from home goes over the period allowed under the temporary absence benefit rules as they are self-isolating due to COVID-19.
Although the DWP has overall responsibility for the Housing Benefit scheme and its funding, local authorities have the statutory responsibility for its day-to-day administration. This includes the assessment of individual claims for benefit. " Parliamentary Q and A here.
In other words, HB can continue in payment when it would normally stop once the claimant has been abroad longer than the period allowed under the temporary absence rules (normally 4 weeks). This is understood to be an extra-statutory payment – ie the HB regulations have not been changed, but the payments are allowed in these circumstances.
Anyone who had their HB stopped in this situation should ask for their HB to be reinstated by requesting a mandatory reconsideration.
However, if they are not already on HB, we do not think that they will be able to make a new claim for it while abroad, even if they are someone who can normally make a new claim eg pension age and have no income for the period they are abroad. When they do return, they could claim and try for a backdate (no guarantees with the backdate but no harm in asking!)
If they are not pension age, or working age and not normally living in 'specified' or temporary accommodation, then they will not be able to make a new claim for HB.
They would need to claim UC.
But one of the criteria for claiming UC is to be "in Great Britain" so a new claim for UC cannot be made from abroad.
It is worth checking to see if there is anyone else living in the property who may already be getting UC or could make a new claim for UC or HB. They may be able to get help with the rent if the DWP considers it reasonable to treat them as liable for the rent in the tenant's absence.
See here for information on Universal Credit for those stuck abroad due to the Coronavirus travel restrictions.