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21st September 2018: Revised Circular A7/2018 clarifies when a person must claim UC; and confirms that there is no legal reason preventing a UC claimant who has an APA Managed Payment in place from accessing a Discretionary Housing Payment. More on Who Must Claim UC (and who doesn't need to) on this page; more on DHPs for UC claimants on this page.

18th September 2018:  CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) needs evidence of problems with UC non-dependent deductions (UC call then "housing cost contributions"). They're wanting  both specific cases (names not needed) and general matters.  Contact them on their easy to use case reporting form or email ews@cpag.org.uk or call Dan Norris on 020 7812 5226. More on UC non-dep deductions on this page.

30th August 2018: Prior to the introduction of the Scottish Carers Allowance (to be paid at the same rate as JSA for singles aged 25+) a Carers Allowance Supplement will be paid twice yearly from 03/09/118. This will not be taken into account in calculating means tested benefits. DMG 09/18. More here.

30th August 2018: Supreme Court rules that denial of widowed parent's allowance to unmarried widows/widowers is unlawful discrimination. Guardian article. However we do not know when/if the regulations will be changed.

30th August 2018: CPAG is collating data on under 25 year old parents on UC (because they have a lower standard allowance than the personal allowance under legacy benefits). If you have any cases of parents under 25 on UC please send to testcases@cpag.org.uk

20th August: Government publishes sanctions statistics.
71% of UC sanctions relate to failing to attend oor participate in a work-focused interview; 13.1% to being available for work; 9.8% to attendance at employment programme; 5.45% to reasons for leaving their job. Between August 2015 and April 2018, 70% of mandatory reconsiderations against sanction decisions were unsuccessful. The DWP say that data on Appeals were omitted from the statistics because of "possible under-recording of adverse decisions". Stats here

9th August 2018:
Government announces that all supported housing will remain under Housing Benefit. However the government say they "will work with providers, local authorities, membership bodies and resident representatives over the coming months to develop a robust oversight regime. This work will ensure quality and value for money across the whole supported housing sector" and "a further review of housing related support will be undertaken to better understand how housing and support currently "fit together". https://www.gov.uk/government/news/all-supported-housing-funding-to-be-retained-in-welfare-system

26th July 2018:
Government consultation on migration from legacy benefits to UC. Responses required by 13th August, details here.

19th July 2018:
Esther McVey announces that ESA claimants who were underpaid when they transferred from Incapacity benefit will be compensated, back to 2011 where appropriate. Previously DWP had only agreed to pay back to 2014. Passported benefits (such as free school meals, free prescriptons) that were missed will not be compensated for however. More on this issue on this page.

14th June 2018: The High Court rules that 2 severely disabled UC claimants suffered unjustifiable discrimination when they lost  income as a result of moving onto Universal Credit. This was because of there being no severe disability premium in UC, and although there will be some transitional protection for such claimants migrating oto UC when migration begins, there is no such protection for those who have to make a claim for UC for example because of moving to a different LA. Decision here. More on when people are worse off on UC here.  See related news from 7th June below.

7th June 2018: Esther McVey has announced changes as part of the Universal Credit Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations due in the autumn.
Claimants who receive the Severe Disability Premium in legacy benefits won't be moved onto UC until they qualify for transitional protection under "migration".
There will be an on-going payment to those already on UC which will be backpaid to when they went onto UC.
Any childcare costs element won't erode any transitional protection.
Where transitional protection has ceased due to earnings increasing, the transitional protection can be re-awarded if they make a new claim to UC within 3 months of the MAP in which it increased.
Tax Credit claimants with over £16,000 capital when they move onto UC will have any excess disregarded for 12 months. The process of migrating claimants on legacy benefits will begin in July 2019 as previously announced but the exact timetable will be kept under review.

7th June 2018: Free School meals - Welsh government launch consultation on introducing an income threshold for UC claimants - click here.

31st May 2018:
The DWP has accepted that its approach to assessing personal independence payment (PIP) activity 3, ‘managing therapy or monitoring a health condition’, was wrong prior to 2017 - click here for more information.

31st May 2018:
HM Courts and Tribunal Service has launched an online appeals service for PIP.  HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has launched as a pilot for claimants in Beds, Berks, Bucks, Cambs, Essex, E Sussex, Herts, Kent, Midlands, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Once the appeal is submitted it is sent to DWP the same day.

25th May 2018: Email address for ADVISERS ONLY where it appears someone who has transferred from Incapacity Benefit to Contributory ESA should have been given an Income Related EA top-up: The email address which is for adviser use only and must not be made public is dawn.barlow@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

23rd May 2018: The DWP has issued new guidance to local authorities in relation to the transition to universal credit housing payments - G5/2018.

23rd May 2018: 
R(DA and Ors) v SSWP [2018] will be heard by the Supreme Court in July 2018. Originally the High Court had found that the benefit cap unlawfully discriminated against lone parents with children under two, but this was overturned by the Court of Appeal.  More on this page.

23rd May 2018: Government list of forthcoming Jobcentre closures here.

11th May 2018:
A new Partner Organisation Escalation Routeway is being rolled out from some point in May. This allows partner organisations (housing associations, councils, ALMOs, advice agencies etc) to raise specific problems their tenants/customers are having with UC, and get them resolved. They will still need the claimant's explicit consent however. If you have not yet done so, do contact your Local Partnership Manage to ensure your organisation is recognised as a partner for these purposes.

May 4th 2018: (Happy Star Wars day).

The Home Office has "urged Local Authorities to "apply extreme caution" to any HB claimants unable to supply immigration status documentation if they say they are "Windrush generation"; they should refer them to the Home Office dedicated taskforce team  to allow them to undertake necessary action.

The Home Office recommends LAs wait at least 2 weeks to allow the referral to be reviewed and any necessary paperwork provided, before taking any further steps to process, restrict or stop HB claims. 

External customers or representatives can contact the free phone number on 0800 678 1925 or email commonwealthtaskforce@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.

Further information on home office website here. More on benefits for people from Commonwealth countries here.

1st May 2018: Sees the start of the first judicial review regarding UC, which has been taken on behalf of two severely disabled men, who have both seen their benefits dramatically reduced due to the loss of the severe disability premium. The hearing starts on Tuesday 1 May and is scheduled to last four days, with the outcome potentially affecting thousands of severely disabled people across the country.

 

30th April 2018: DWP announced Universal Jobmatch to be replaced by "Find a Job" on 14th May 2018. From the youtube video it looks as if it will work very much like Digital UC. 

23rd April 2018: DWP launches mandatory reconsideration form and guidance. Here. More on challenging UC decisions on our website here; also see the Welfare Reform section for challenging ESA, PIP and Sanction decisions.

23rd April 2018: DWP announce new Easy Read ESA notes sheet for people with learning difficulties. Here.

20th April 2018
: CPAG given permission to appeal part of the High Court Judgement that the 2 child limit is lawful. The only part given permission however was the way the kinship care exception works. More on the 2 child limit here. 

11th April 2018: Support with Mortgage Interest for those on: UC, IS, IB-JSA, IR-ESA and PC is abolished and replaced by a loan for those who accepted the offer. 

11th April 2018: Various UC changes take affect: UC Transitional Housing Payment, surplus earnings, surplus losses, backdating: first assessment period, HB for temporary accommodation, time limit for providing supporting evidence of a beneficial change in circumstances, suspending conditionality for some claimants. Click here to find out more.

11th April 2018: Plans to abolish the Bedroom Tax in UC in Scotland delayed until May 2020 at the earliest - click here.

10th April 2018: Free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit - the earnings limit of £7,400 pa means slightly more children eligible under UC than under legacy benefits according to Institute for Fiscal Studies report here.

10th April 2018: A First Tier Tribunal (which doesn't have any influence over future tribunals) rules a woman could have a derivative right to reside through being primary carer of a child (of an EEA worker) in education despite also counting as a "jobseeker" - normally an exempt category that precludes having a derivative right. More here.

6th April 2018: New benefit rates take effect - click here

3rd April 2018: Change to the Funeral Expenses Payment Scheme from 2nd April 2018 - see ADM 07/2018

29th March: Reminder that gov.uk has information on how to report rent changes- Live service - landlords can report on template schedule; Full service - tenants must report - but note where landlord has Landlord Portal they will be asked to verify rents for any tenants who have reported changes. Gov.uk info here

March 2018: Updated DHP Guidance manual published - click here

29th March: Government announce change in UC Regulations to allow all 18-21 year olds to get a Housing Costs Element to help pay their rent regardless of their circumstances - click here.

29th March: Simple payment cards ends, replaced by "payment exception service" for exceptional cases where claimants cannot access a bank account- info from gov.uk here.

22nd March:
Roll out of Universal Credit changes again for some - click here.

20th March:
Court of Appeal Decision - First Tier and Upper Tier Tribunals do not have the power to disapply HB Regulations even where they contravene Human Rightsclick here

16th March: Rent increase / decreases - every notification will need verifying by those landlords who are on the Landlord Portal - click here . DWP letter to NHF here.

15th March: Court of Appeal find Benefit Cap does not discriminate against lone parents with a child under two - claimants have been given permission to take appeal to the Supreme Court - click here

15th March: HB Circular A2/2018 confirms more working details of changes to UC /HB for those living in temporary accommodation and the HB two week run on. Circular here

12th March: Only 11 per cent of claimants who receive support for mortgage interest have taken up offer for replacement loan payments - click here

9th March: 6 per cent of full service universal credit awards had a 40 per cent deduction rate applied in January 2018 - click here

8th March: Median clearance time from initial ESA claim to DWP work-capability assessment decision is 19 weeks: click here

8th March: Increase in Carer's Allowance earnings limit from 9th April 2018 from £116 to £120 a week: click here

8th March: Benefit rates for 2018/19 laid in Parliament - regs here.

8th March: Amending Regulations to the changes to help with Mortgage Interest coming in from April: click here

28th February: New Case Law, CUC/533/2017 - Where a child 'normally lives' in more than one household, the 'main responsibility' test then applies to see which household they are living in for the purposes of UC. 21st February: 4 out of 5 UC sanction appeals are successful: click here

19th February: Government confirms that work placements under the Youth Obligation will be voluntary: click here

15th February: Watch our latest video! On Monthly Assessment Periods: here

15th February 2018: Pilot scheme testing universal credit in-work conditionality to be extended for further 12 months - ADM Memo 6/18

13th February 2018: "Simple Payment" benefit payment card to be replaced, from 20.03.18, by HM Government Payment Service - same principles, still withdraw from Paypoint Outlets but max single withdrawal £100 (though can make multiples withdrawals on same day). DWP wrote to stakeholder partners - here.

8th February 2018: DWP's letter to NHF outlines how landlords can notify of UC claimants' rent changes  in Live areas (with template schedule & email address); but reiterates it's the tenant's responsibility (via online account) in Full service. More here

30th January 2018:  ADM1/2018 found here - Guidance on the prevention of claims for Universal Credit in non-Digital / Live Gateway areas.

30th January 2018:  Neil Couling, UC's Director General, confirms that the level of Minimum Income Floor can be adjusted to take into account caring responsibilities for those with part-time caring responsibilities.  Couling stated:

'If you are required to work 16 hours a week and you have a child who is over the age of three, the minimum income floor will be a multiple of 16 hours times the national minimum wage over 52 weeks, divided by 12. Similarly, if you have care responsibilities, it might be set at 25 hours times the national minimum wage.'

His oral statement can be found here.

24th January 2018:  Multiple changes to Universal Credit and other benefits announced - some from February 2018, some in April 2018. More here.

19th January 2018: From 31st January 2018 existing Full service UC claimants (as well as new claimants) in Scotland will be able to take advantage of the Scottish Universal Credit Choices ie: choosing to be paid Universal Credit twice a month rather than monthly; and

having their Universal Credit housing element being paid directly to their landlords. More from the Scottish social security website (with a link to a customer leaflet)  here.

8th January 2018:  The fourth DWP Secretary of State in less than two years is announced.  Esther McVey has been appointed with immediate effect with David Gauke moving to the Ministry of Justice.

6th January 2018:  New regulations in Scotland providing for the extension of "flexible payment" arrangements for UC claimants.  Regs found here.  More on our website here.

4th January 2018:  UC case law in the form of CUC/1808/2017 states that consideration must be given as to whether the 35 hour work search requirement should be reduced or lifted.  A claimant successfully overturned a sanction at Upper Tribunal by successfully arguing that she couldn't achieve 35 hours of work search one week due to a family crisis.  More here with link to standard letter.

21st December 2017: The government have published the Housing Benefit uprates (subject to parliamentary approval) in HB Circular A10/2017.

21st December 2017: Some Local Housing Allowance Broad Market Rental areas to receive a 3% increase from April 2018. Legislation here (HB England) and here (HB Scotland) and here (Universal Credit).

21st December 2017: Various amendments to Council Tax Reduction Scheme regulations published.

20th December 2017: DWP confirms that UC payments due on 23, 24, 25 & 26 December will be paid no later than 22 December; and payments due on 30, 31 December & 1 January will receive payment no later than 29 December.

15th December 2017:  DWP confirm that they are contacting in the region of 75,000 ESA claimants who may have been underpaid ESA after being transferred / converted over to ESA from Incapacity Benefit.  Many claimants were moved on to contribution based ESA only and therefore missed out on any premiums that might have been payable within Income Related ESA.  David Gauke's statement is here

15th December 2017:  The Scottish government confirm that all UC claimants in Scotland will qualify for flexible payments from 31st January 2018 i.e. twice monthly payments to claimant and direct payments to landlord, little or no questions asked.  Click here for the regs.

15th December 2017:  Urgent bulletin HB U4/2017 circulated today advising LA's HB departments that new claimants of Live Service / Gateway UC from 1st of January will be re-directed to legacy benefits i.e. Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance.  Claimants can terminate their UC and will be able to claim HB 'straight away' (unless they come under the '6 month rule'.  We await the regulations on this.  

29th November 2017:  All Universal Credit main telephone numbers free of charge as from today. 

The main UC freephone numbers include 0800 328 9344 (live service) and 0800 328 5644 (full service) - anyone ringing the old numbers will hear a message informing them of the new number to call.  More information here.  David Gauke, Secretary of State for the DWP has promised that freephone numbers for other DWP benefits and services are set to follow, with all numbers switched over by the end of 2017

22nd November 2017: Philip Hammond announces changes to Universal Credit - to remove the seven day waiting period applied at the beginning of a benefit claim so that entitlement to Universal Credit will start on the day of the claim - with effect from February 2018; to make it possible to apply for an advance online- and receive it within 5 days, with a repayment period of up to 12 months;
and for an amount of up to 100% of the anticipated UC award (instead of 50%) - with effect from January 2018. (Those who received 50% in December will be entitled to request he additional 50% from January 2018); and for new Universal Credit claimant in receipt of Housing Benefit, to allow a "run-on" of Housing Benefit for 2 weeks - with effect from April 2018.
The UC full service roll-out will be slowed down between Feb and April 2018 so that full roll out will not be achieved until December 2018.
More - with updates - on this page.

18th November 2017: NAWRA (National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers) are seeking Universal Credit cases that could be taken to Judicial Review:
1. Claimants who are naturally migrating from ESA - failure to pay the LCW/LCWRA element straight away
2. The application of waiting days when shouldn't be applied as claimant was on legacy benefits before migrating
3. Submission of a DS1500 by a third party - refusal to accept without explicit consent
4. Working disabled people moving from WTC to UC and losing money due to loss of disabled worker element
5. Self-employed people losing out because of irregular income meaning they get less UC than an employed person earning a similar amount, or other self-employed people losing out under UC.

If you have a client who is affected and would consider taking part in a legal challenge please email daphne@nawra.org.uk

17th November 2017:
House of Commons agree a backbench motion to reduce the 6 week wait for a first universal credit payment to one month. This isn't binding on the government though. Hansard debate.

17th November 2017: Free School Meals consultation document plans that eligibility will next year be for children from households with an income of up to £7,400 a year, excluding benefits, which is the equivalent to £18,000 to £24,000 a year including benefits More here

13th November 2017:  First 50 tranche of Trusted Partner / Landlord Portal landlords - more here.

9th November:  UC roll out in Northern Ireland:  Click here for when UC will be rolled out in your area; postcodes/towns affected are, 15 November, Ballymoney and 13 December 2017 Magherafelt and Coleraine.

3rd November 2017:  The Government announce changes to Funeral Payments.  Changes include allowing recipients of a Funeral Payment to receive contributions from relatives, friends or charities without it being deducted from the payment, extending the claim period from 3 to 6 months from the date of the funeral and allowing applicants to submit evidence electronically to speed up the processing of claims and get decisions to claimants sooner introducing a shorter application form for children’s funerals.  More on the Social Fund, here, on our website and the consultation response can be found here.

31st October 2017: Published today - "Funding Supported Housing - Policy Statement and Consultation" - 3 main groups of funding -
1) A ‘Sheltered Rent’ – for those in sheltered and extra care housing (including working age)from 2020, funded through welfare system, but with the social housing regulator of the Homes and Communities Agency using existing powers to regulate gross eligible rent. (Consultation seeking reviews on the appropriate rent level).
2.) Local Grant Fund – from 2020, for short-term and transitional supported housing (including homeless with support needs, fleeing domestic abuse, drug and alcohol misuse, offenders, young people at risk. Commissioned locally using a new "local planning and oversight regime" and funded by Local Authorities through a ring fenced grant. Removes short term support costs from the welfare system.
3.) Welfare System (Housing Benefit/Universal Credit) – for long-term supported housing – including learning disabilities, mental ill health, physical disabilities, and "highly specialised supported housing". 100% of housing costs (rent inclusive of eligible service charges) will continue to be funded through the welfare system & subject to existing rules.

"The Government will work with the sector to develop and deliver improvements to cost control, quality and outcomes."

27th October 2017:  An update on the reforms of the Courts and Tribunals service announced today, with an emphasis on 'online routes to justice'.  The update advises that "In tribunals, people appealing social security and child benefit decisions will be able to make their application fully online, track the progress of their case by text, email or online, and, if judged appropriate, take part either in a virtual hearing, or in an online hearing with the judge able to ask questions through rapid messaging, allowing much faster decision-making in a system where delays can bring real hardship".  More detail to follow in the months ahead.

26th October 2017:  The Prime Minister also announces, in a major policy change, that the LHA cap will not be applied to supported housing or the social rented sector as a whole.  More detail is to follow but Mrs May stated yesterday that "I can say today that . . .we will not be applying the local housing allowance cap to supported housing; indeed, we will not be implementing it in the wider social rented sector. The full details will be made available when we publish our response to the consultation.'

26th October 2017:  The Prime Minister announces that the government will publish its future model to support and sustain supported housing on Tuesday the 31st of October.  A statement on gov.uk can be found here and we will publish more on our website when we have it.  Prime Minister May announced yesterday that "we need to ensure that the funding model is right so that all providers of supported housing can access funding effectively. We need to look at issues such as the recent significant increases in service charges, making sure that we are looking at cost control in the sector."

25th October 2017:  The Rent to own provider, BrightHouse has been told to pay back £14.8 million pounds to nearly 250,000 customers for lending that was not affordable and for payments that should have been refunded.  Customers are advised that they do not need to take action as BrightHouse will write to all affected customers to explain the refund or balance adjustment they will receive.  More here.

25th October 2017:  DMG Memo 21/17 issued - on ESA and Qualifying Young Persons participating in Relevant Training Schemes.  It is a condition of entitlement to ESA(IR) that a claimant is not receiving education. A claimant who is participating in approved training will be treated as in education - and therefore not entitled to ESA(IR). These Regs insert a new definition of what a Traineeship is and ensure that participating in such a scheme does not prevent a claim to ESA(IR) by virtue of the rules relating to receiving education.

18th October 2017: The government announce that Universal Credit customer telephone lines will be the first to become Freephone in November, with remaining DWP customer phone lines becoming free by the end of the year.  More details will emerge on our website once we get the detail.

9th October 2017: Letter from Neil Couling to Local Authorities, on the impact of Full service UC on arrears, following recent concerns.

5th October 2017:  The Scottish government announce 'Delivery of UC choices for people living in Scotland' - new guidance announced on "Scottish Flexibilities" of payment i.e. a claimant will be able to chose to receive payments twice monthly and housing costs straight to the landlord.  Details can be found here.

4th October 2017:  David Gauke announces a planned overhaul of the Universal Credit advance payment system, promising that "anyone who needs an advance payment will be offered it up-front. Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks. They will receive this advance within 5 working days."  More here.  We await the guidance.

And more on advance payments of Universal Credit here.

3rd October 2017:  David Gauke announces at the Conservative party conference that the digital roll out of Universal Credit will continue as planned, dispelling rumours that there could be a pause.  He announced that "Universal Credit is working. So I can confirm that the rollout will continue, and to the planned timetable. We’re not going to rush things."  Full extract of his conference speech can be found here.

2nd October 2017: Government consultation on draft regulations for proposed "Help to Save" scheme whereby UC and WTC claimants can save into a NS&I account and receive a 50% savings top-up (after 2 years'saving) on up to £50 a month savings. Consultation responses welcomed from anyone working with UC or WTC claimants and money advisers, amongst others, deadline October 27th 2017. More info here; technical consultation here

29th September 2017:  The DWP announce that from September 29th 2017, Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have limited capability for work related activity (in the support group) and who have a severe, life long disability, illness or health condition and are unlikely ever to be able to move into work should not have to face reassessment on passing their Work Capability Assessment.  The DWP policy paper can be found here.

29th September 2017:  The DWP announce extended vulnerability criteria for immediate access to hardship payments in DMG Memo 18/17.  Those with long term mental health problems or any disorder or disability of the mind or a learning disability or cognitive impairment and those who are homeless - with no accommodation available for their legal occupation should be able to access as soon as their sanction is imposed.

20th September 2017:  The Work and Pensions Select Committee are asking for written submissions from stakeholders on the DWP's readiness and preparedness for the scheduled acceleration of digital Universal Credit from this Autumn.  The deadline for submissions is 13th October 2017 and more details on the scope of the inquiry can be found here.

20th September 2017:  The Scottish government announce a £300m fund to help young carers.  The measures include a Young Carer Grant, awarded to 16 to 18 year olds who provide 16 or more hours of care per week to a disabled person but who do not qualify for Carer's Allowance.  More here on gov.scot.

19th September - 2017(UKUT) 347 (AAC) - DWP withdraw appeal, conceding where earnings reported by HMRC or employer in "wrong" monthly assessment period, DWP can & should allocate them to the MAP in which the claimant was paid them. More here.

15th September 2017: Expansion of Trusted Partner Pilot and Landlord Portal announced - here.

1st September 2017:  Replacement for Support for Mortgage Interest with a new loans scheme to be introduced in Northern Ireland - click here for the regs.  The NI government has also provided for the removal of the limited capability for work component in Universal Credit for new claims and changes for single parent UC claims - in line with the rest of the UK.

25th August 2017: A recent FOI response (3176) confirmed that for explicit consent, if a specific individual representative cannot be named then the team name or job role within the organisation can be given instead. More here.

9th August 2017:  Two test cases SG v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Appeal CE/766/2016) and R (CJ) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (JR/3861/2016) against the DWP were successful this week.  In both cases it was determined that each claimant had their right to appeal to an independent tribunal taken away due to being refused late mandatory reconsideration (no MR = no appeal).  More on our website to follow . .

9th August 2017:  The Scottish Government announce a 10 point plan to combat funeral poverty with policies to help those who struggle to afford a funeral for their loved ones - announcements include a new Funeral Expense Assistance benefit, by summer 2019.  More here.

25th July 2017:  The LGA report that the cost of temporary accommodation for homeless families has tripled in recent years.  Over 120,000 children are currently living in temporary accommodation, a 10% rise on the previous year.  More here.

21st July 2017:  Joseph Rowntree report states that on average 100 families per week are being evicted from their homes.  Rowntree go on to report that 4 out of 5 evictions using section 21 are in London, and that two thirds of evictions overall are occurring in the capital.  Their report can be accessed here.

19th July 2017:  The state pension age has been increased to 68 from 2037.  This will affect those born between 6th April 1970 and the 5th April 1978.  Check your state pension age on Gov.uk, here!

18th July 2017: The government have announced immediate help will be available for Jobseekers who have a mental health problem, or who are homeless, and whose benefits have been sanctioned.  Regulations, which come into effect in October 2017, provide for a safety net and immediate access to hardship payments for such claimants.  More on gov.uk here (including a statement from Damian Hinds).

17th July 2017:  HB Bulletin G7/2017 released today, aiming to provide clarity as to which families can claim UC in a digital UC area.  There has clearly been some confusion on this issue and the DWP state ‘Some claimants are being misdirected to claim the wrong benefit depending upon their personal circumstances. This misdirection results in claimants being sent from universal credit to tax credits and housing benefit and, often, back again; resulting in financial difficulties.’  The government hope that G7/2017 provides some clarity.

11th July 2017:  New regulations providing for the removal of automatic housing costs for 18-21 year olds in Northern Ireland found here.  Much more on this policy can be found on our website, here.

10th July 2017: Changes to Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme confirmed in new regulations.  From 6th April 2018, SMI will be replaced by new Loan Scheme, as per Loans for Mortgage Interest Regulations 2017.  An explanatory memorandum to the regulations can be found here and there's more on our Help for Homeowners pages here.

7th July 2017:  CPIP/387/2017 - New PIP case law on whether the precautionary use of incontinence pads can satisfy regulation 7 and the '50% of days' test.  More on our website here!

6th July 2017:  DWP analysis shows that 73% of local authorities underspent their DHP allocation in 2016/2017 and that 20% of the funding available to local authorities to spend on mitigating the effects of the benefit cap was spent elsewhere.

30th June 2017: New gov.uk youtube video on Full Service (Digital) Universal Credit.

30th June 2017:  The Scottish Government have announced that, for new claims made on or after the 4th October 2017, Universal Credit claimants will be able to have flexible/twice monthly payments and direct payment of the Housing Costs Element straight to their landlord if they make a request for them. The DWP will only be able to refuse if they consider the request unreasonable.  This affects claimants in digital areas only.  The relevant amendments to the The Universal Credit (Claims and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 can be found here.

29th June 2017:  The Government announce, as part of their deal with the DUP, that the Pensions 'Triple Lock' is to stay, as are universal payments of the Winter Fuel Payment.  Government statement on this can be found here.

27th June 2017: The government has set out its proposals on post-Brexit rights for EU citizens living within the United Kingdom.  Proposals include - EU citizens with settled status continuing to have access to UK benefits on the same basis as a comparable UK national under domestic law; and EU citizens arriving before a specified date (no earlier than 29 March 2017 and no later than the date of the UK's withdrawal from the EU) who do not have five years’ residence at the time of the UK’s exit but who remain legally in the UK on a pathway to settled status will continue to be able to access the same benefits that they can access now (broadly, equal access for workers/the self-employed and limited access for those not working).   Official proposals can be found here.

23 June 2017:  HB bulletin U3/2017 - with regard the former residents of Grenfell Tower.  U3/2017 confirms that following the Grenfell Tower fire on 13 June 2017, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea area, applications may be received from former residents for assistance towards rent in advance, deposits and other lump sums associated with a housing need such as removal costs or, indeed, the cost of temporary accommodation.   However, the benefit cap will continue to apply and former tenants will need to apply for a DHP where appropriate.

22 June 2017:  In response to the High Court ruling, the DWP have released guidance U2/2017, in which they hint that they will appeal the decision, and advise that, as the legislation has not changed, Housing Benefit departments should continue to apply the cap to lone parents of children aged under 2.

21 June 2017:  The High Court has found that applying the Benefit Cap reduction to lone parents with children aged under 2 to be unlawful.  In his decision made today, Mr Justice Collins found the application of the Benefit Cap to cases such as these as causing 'real misery to no good purpose'.  A statement by Doughty Street Chambers can be found here.

21st June 2017:  The Social Security (Scotland) Bill has been introduced, devolving much more power to the Scottish Government over matters of Social Security.  The Bill sets out an over-arching legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland, making provision for operational functions such as overpayments, fraud, error, re-determinations and appeals.  Holyrood now has power over 11 of the Social Security benefits including PIP, DLA and Carer's Allowance.

20th June 2017:  Further roll out of Universal Credit confirmed in ADM memo 18/17 - digital/full UC service being rolled out to more parts of the country including areas of South Yorkshire, the Scottish Highlands and the West Midlands.

19th June 2017:  G6/2017 published on gov.uk - HB Bulletin, providing more detail on Real Time Information systems, and Employment and Support Allowance regulations (due into force on 23rd June 2017, which provide an additional earnings disregard where the claimant, or their partner, is in remunerative work of at least 16 hours per week and the person who is working meets the conditions to be awarded either a disability premium, the support component of ESA or the work related activity group).

14th June 2017: 34,000 claims for Universal Credit registered in the month to 11th of May 2017, the lowest number of claims recorded in a month since June 2016.  Full report from the DWP can be found here.  The total number of UC claims now stands at 530,000.

13th June 2017:  Following the General Election last week, the government have announced a new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, David Gauke, who was previously Chief Secretary to the Treasury.   

13th June 2017:  And following David Gauke's appointment, the government have announced a new Housing and Planning Minister (the 6th in 7 years) - Alok Sharma, formerly of the foreign office.

11th June 2017:  86% of ESA decisions at mandatory reconsideration stage are unsuccessful (in the period December 2016 to April 2017).  New DWP statistics show that 7% of mandatory reconsideration requests were in the claimant's favour and that, at tribunal stage, 62% of decisions on an ESA claim were favourable to the claimant.  More information found here in gov.uk.

9th June 2017:  The Scottish government announces interim extension of Scottish Welfare Fund to help those 18-21 year olds affected by the cuts to Universal Credit Housing Costs Element from April 2017.  Letter from Scottish Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman outlining the issues found here.

6th June 2017:  The Scottish government have introduced a Universal Credit earnings threshold for free school lunches (and provision for early learning and Childcare in Scotland).  From 1st August 2017, a claimant who earns over £610 a month in the monthly assessment period immediately prior to the month of claim will not be eligible.  The legislation can be found here.

31st May 2017: Scottish government announces it will implement a higher level of Carers Allowance (to be paid at the same rate as Jobseekers Allowance)from summer 2017, plus a Best Start Grant (replacement to Sure Start Maternity Grant) and a Funeral Expense Payment. Article from Scottish Housing News here.

25th May 2017: Scottish Ombudsman decides HB Offices should be notifying claimants in writing when they make a decision to suspend their benefit - click here for the decision.

19th May 2017:  The interest rate used in calculating Support for Mortgage Interest is to reduce from 18th June 2017 from 3.12% to 2.61% - reflecting the reduction in the Bank of England's measure of household mortgage rates.  More on this here on gov.uk.

17th May 2017:  DWP confirm that, for the first time, there are now over 500,000 UC claimants nationwide - DWP report on Universal Credit stats from April 2016 to April 2017 found here.

16th May 2017:  DMG 13/17 and ADM 16/17 released by the DWP to give guidance on ESA and "further evidence of Limited Capability for Work".  The DWP have released this guidance in light of an Upper Tribunal Judicial Review decision about whether the current WCA process discriminates against ESA claimants with a mental health condition.  The DWP have advised that there should now be an additional requirement for Health Care Professionals to consider requesting further evidence 'when it would be helpful to the assessing HCP or the Decision Maker'.

15th May 2017:  Latest areas to be affected by the roll out of digital UC - May to July 2017 - announced and confirmed by the DWP in guidance ADM memo 15/17.

 5th May 2017:  Latest Benefit Cap figures show that the number of families affected has risen by 230% since 7 November 2016.  The statistics, found here in the gov.uk website, show the majority of households affected are single parent households which include a child under the age of 5.

2nd May 2017:  DWP issue urgent bulletin U1/2017 which gives Housing Benefit departments guidance on recent developments in the Carmichael bedroom tax case.  The DWP advise that 'no action is taken at present' and that they 'will issue further guidance in due course'.  More details will follow on our website when they are available.

27th April 2017:  Upper Tier tribunal decision determines that initial three months (and as a Jobseeker) counts towards the subsequent acquisition of a permanent right of residence under domestic UK law.  Decision found here.

26th April 2017:  The DWP annouce further roll-out of full service Universal Credit here.  The new Statutory Instrument gives detail on the expansion of UC from 3rd May 2017 to 28th June 2017 with Halifax and Milton Keynes being amongst the towns affected.

21st April 2017:  Letter from Damian Green gives detail on transference of power from Westminster to the Scottish Government.  By May 2017, the Scottish parliament will be able to legislate on matters from carer's benefits to industrial injuries, plus funeral costs, maternity and disability benefits.

20th April 2017:  Housing Benefit circular G4/2017 released today with guidance on the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme which 'allows parents to create and account where they can put aside money to pay for childcare provision', which HMRC will 'top up these payments on an 80/20 basis' up to a certain limit.  The 80% parental contribution should be classed as capital for HB purposes.

20th April 2017:  Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work announces today support for claimants who lose their motability car on migration to PIP.  In a written statement she advises that 'scheme customers can retain their car for up to 8 weeks after their DLA ends, a significant increase from the 3 weeks they are allowed today'......'In addition, customers who are eligible for a transitional support payment will be able to retain their car for up to 6 months, including the processes of reconsideration and appeal.  For those that take advantage of this option, the level of transitional support payment will be reduced'.  Her full written statement can be found here.

20th April 2017:  Further statements on PIP from Ms Mordaunt on rapid re-claims for claimants who have been abroad for more than 13 weeks returned within 12 months of the date they left.  Ms Mordaunt expects that this new process will be implemented within the next two months and that eligible claimants will be able to access benefits within two weeks of making the claim.

7th April 2017:  DWP release further guidance, this time on ESA/Permitted Work and ESA hardship payments.  The guidance, which can be found here, provides further detail on the removal of the 52 week Permitted Work limit and the increased amount of hardship payment (from 60% to 80% of a claimant's prescribed allowance) if the claimant is not in the Work Related Activity Group and is seriously ill or pregnant.

6th April 2017:  DWP release guidance for stakeholders around the 'two child limit' on Universal Credit and Tax Credits, found here.  The DWP have also released forms for those who require 'Support for a child conceived without your consent', which can be found here and 'support for a child who is informally living with you', found here.

6th April 2017:  In line with new guidance on the two child limit for UC/Tax credits - see above - the DWP have also today released new guidance on the two child limit and its impact on Housing Benefit (A5/2017).  For the guidance, click here, and for more detailed information on our website please click here.

5th April 2017:  ADM 7/2017 gives further guidance on the government's removal of the ESA work related activity component (WRAC) in relation to the changes introduced from 3 April 2017.  More on our website can be found here.

5th April 2017:  DWP make amendments to HB circular A3/2017 regarding the Bedroom Tax/size criteria to clarify the confusion around physical disability and couples unable to share a bedroom. 

30th March 2017:  More PIP News - An interpretation of new PIP caselaw whereby an Upper Tribunal found against the DWP's '50% rule' can be found here, on our website.

29th March 2017:  House of Lords report on Financial Exclusion, and proposals to tackle the problems, found here.  HoL recommend a designated 'Minister for Financial Inclusion' plus the abolition of the 7 day waiting period for UC amongst other measures.  We wait for the governments response.

28th March 2017:  Damian Hinds, Minister for Employment, responds to the Social Security Select Committee's concerns over the two child policy.  His response, in full, can be found here.

27th March 2017: New DWP guidance planned to allow Full Service UC claimants in temporary accommodation to receive HB for housing costs. Guardian article here.

21st March 2017:  Damian Hinds, Minister for Employment, verbally confirms that UC claimants in digital areas will be able to upload documentation onto their UC accounts 'by the end of the year'.  He is quoted on Hansard as saying "we have made changes to the design of the universal credit digital service so that, before the end of this year, claimants will be able to upload certain evidence to the online system."  Full debate on this can be found here.


21st March 2017:  HB bulletin G3/2017 outlining DWP's 'Roll out of Real Time Information Service' to Housing Benefit administrators enabling HB staff to "view earnings and pensions data on your desktop to use as evidence when assessing entitlement to housing benefit. Legal gateways are in place that will allow you to access the data in the following circumstances"

17th March 2017:  Government announce/confirm changes to the amount a carer can earn before their Carer's Allowance is affected and they are treated as gainfully employed.  Up from £110 a week to £116 a week as from 10th April 2017.  Regulations found here.

15th March 2017:  DWP confirm that MPs can use implicit consent in full UC digital service areas - statement from DWP's Damian Green found here

15th March 2017:  Nearly Legal report on a Judicial Review of Hammersmith and Fulham's refusal to pay a relatively high award of DHP over a long period of time - effectively ignoring their own guidance and DWP guidance.  A tenant was refused DHP on the grounds the amount (of £150 a week) was very high but the court held that payments could be made as DWP guidance states 'DHPs can be paid for an indefinite period where an individual requires further assistance with rent and their circumstances were unlikely to change'.  Full story on Nearly Legal here.

 

15th March 2017:  DWP confirm in the Child Tax Credit (Amendment Regulations) 2017 the 'two child' policy.  Regulations found here and more on our website found here.  More on explicit/implicit consent found here.

14th March 2017: DWP confirm the UC taper rate on earnings received by UC claimants reduced from 65% to 63% - in force from the 10th April - meaning that claimants keep more of their earnings.  Regulations confirming this found here.

 

6th March 2017:  Benefit rates for 2017/2018 now announced by government in Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2017.  Link to table of contents found, here.

3rd March 2017:  Regulations published excluding some young people (aged 18-21) from the Housing Cost Element of Universal Credit in Full Service Areas from 1st April 2017. Regulations here. Detail on the website, including who will not be affected, here.

2nd March 2017: Amending Regulations in respect of the size criteria changes for Bedroom Tax/LHA changes from 1st April 2017 published - click here for more information re Bedroom Tax changes.

1st March 2017:  HB Circular A3/2017 in relation to the Supreme Court decisions of 9 November 2016.  In summary from 1st April 2017:
An extra bedroom should be considered where; a disabled child or other person requires and receives overnight care on a regular basis from a non-household carer and the child/person is in receipt of middle/high rate DLA, PIP daily living, Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP), or AA (Rutherford).  
Also, where a couple are unable to share a bedroom due to a disability (Carmichael), the disabled adult must be in receipt of middle or high rate DLA, PIP daily living, AFIP or high rate AA.
click here for more information re Bedroom Tax changes.

 

21 February 2017:  House of Commons Select Committee announce re-launch of Universal Credit roll-out inquiry. 

The Committee invites written submissions addressing one or more of the following points: 1. How long are people waiting for their Universal Credit claim to be processed, and what impact is this having on them? 2. How are claimants managing with being paid Universal Credit monthly in arrears?  The list goes on - if, as an organisation, you want to have your say click here for more information.

21st February 2017:  HB Bulletin G2/2017 confirms government policy that families with three or more children will not be able to  submit new claims for Universal Credit after 6/4/17.  They will be re-directed to tax credits/housing benefit instead.

17th February 2017:  DWP confirm that, as of 12 February 2017, there were 450,000 UC claimants - more detailed analysis on UC can be found here.

30th January 2017: Confirmation from DWP Minister Lord Henley that the DWP "does not see any reason why Discretionary Housing Payments cannot be paid to Universal Credit claimants who have Managed Payments to their Landlord in place".  Brief ministerial statement can be found here.

27th January 2017: National Trading Standards illegal money lending team have a new national website for reporting loan sharks, and educating the public. www.stoploansharks.co.uk.

25th January 2017: The DWP is planning a new communication tool for social landlords - a landlord portal. At the NHF Welfare Reform Conference Neil Couling's presentation said "We are developing a Landlord Portal. Features may include the ability • to share information securely with landlords • for Landlords to send info to DWP (e.g. rent verification) • for automated processing of rent verification and direct payments to landlords We are also exploring data share from other partners to identify claimants with complex needs, e.g. care leavers, people in supported housing or people with health conditions. This will mean our Work Coaches can tailor and target support for claimants. "  And Caroline Nokes MP encouraged landlords to "‘… use our Strategic Landlord Forum and partnership managers to feed back issues. This allows us to make continuous improvements to the service. For instance, the Social Landlord Group is helping us in the design of a landlord portal for Universal Credit and has been involved in setting up the Trusted Partner Pilot.’  Full speech here.  " "More on communication issues with DWP here.

23rd January 2017: Notification of rent changes - UC. Landlords can send information about rent changes to the DWP via email - the DWP have said they will specify what format it needs to be in. Associations will get an automated response when an email has been received, and when the changes have been made. They have said the inbox will be continually monitored. However the onus is still on the claimant to report any change - the DWP say they will contact claimants by text as they found they get a better response rate this way. More on rent changes here.

18th January 2017:  Time spent on zero hour contracts and working abroad can count as employment for the purposes of the benefit cap grace period.  HB Guidance from the DWP in G1/2017 confirms this.

13th January 2017:  8 week consultation announced on UC payments in Scotland - found here. Due to concerns over monthly payments, Scottish ministers are consulting on the possibility of introducing twice monthly payments and managed payments to landlords in both the private and social sector.  A chance to have your say!

12th January 2017: DWP Announce reform to Bereavement Benefits.  Caroline Nokes announces changes that will "shift the focus of bereavement benefits from replacing the deceased spouse or civil partner's earnings to helping with the additional and more immediate costs of bereavement'.  Lump sum payments are increased, monthly payments decreased, but are now payable for 18 months.  DWP's written statement can be found here with more analysis on our website here.

20th December 2016: Consultation launched on how the replacement to the Money Advice Service will work. The plan is to merge the Money Advice Service, The Pension Advice Service and Pension Wise. Find out how to contribute your thoughts here. Closing date 13/02/17.

16th December 2016:  LHA rates to be increased by 3% in designated areas of 'high rent increases'.  The government have recognised that, quote:  'freezing LHA rates may have very different effects across the country, as rents in some areas might increase at different rates. In view of this, the Government committed to make provision for high rent areas, and will use 30 per cent of the savings from the LHA freeze, to create Targeted Affordability Funding.'  New Statutory Instrument found here and more detail on LHA found here on our website.

14th December 2016:  New DWP statistics show that 41% of UC claimants are in employment and 37,000 claimants were subject to 'in work conditionality' as of 10 November 2016.  More on 'in work conditionality' can be found here

9th December 2016:  Self employment and the 'gig economy' inquiry launched.  An inquiry launched by the Work and Pensions Committee looking into whether the 'UK welfare system adequately supports the self-employed' calls for written submissions.  More detail here.

1st December 2016: National Audit Office asks DWP to conduct a wide ranging review of benefit sanctions. The NAO points out inconsistencies - "...some Work Programme providers referring twice as many people for sanctions as other providers in the same area"; and inefficiencies /waste of public resources - the DWP estimates it spends £30-50 million a year applying sanctions, plus £200 million monitoring the conditions it sets for claimants;the NAO estimates £132 million in sanctions reductions but paid hardship payments of £35 million. Report here.
More on JSA sanctions here; UC sanctions here.

29th November 2016: Proposed benefit rate increases for 2017/18 published here. Note these are subject to change. Note the freeze on means-tested benefits continues.

24th November 2016: Changes to rates of tax credits and guardian’s allowance from April 2017.
The only increases will be: 
Disabled Child Element of Child Tax Credit increasing to £3175  p.a. (from £3140) 
Severely Disabled Child Element of Child Tax Credit increasing to £1290 p.a. (from £1275)
Disabled Worker Element of Working Tax Credit increasing to £3000 p.a. (from £2970)
Severe Disability Element of Working Tax Credit increasing to £1290 p.a. (from £1275).
Guardian's Allowance increases to £16.70 pw (from £16.55)
No changes to Child Benefit. Gov. uk publication here.

23rd November: Autumn statement confirms Universal Credit taper (rate at which UC calculation reduced as earned income rises, to drop from 65% to 63%. ie if someone earns an extra £1 above their work allowance, their UC award drops by 63p not 65p. Unfortunately the reduced work allowances introduced by George Osborne remain. BBC report here. Full statement from Philip Hammond here.

22nd November: Your views needed on the future of supported housing!
DWP / DCLG consultation launched yesterday - ideas needed on a new funding model for the supported accommodation sector. Get your voice heard - 12 week deadline. Details here.

22nd November 2016:  LHA "Cap"  in general lets to be postponed to 2019 and will affect ALL Uc claimants regardless of when they took on their tenancy. Damian Green said the DWP will:
"‘.. bring in the policy for general needs accommodation in the Social Rented Sector in 2019, instead of 2018.
For Housing Benefit it will apply... to tenants who have signed new or re-let tenancies from 1 April 2016 and their social sector rent is higher than the LHA rate... 
...For Universal Credit, LHA rates will apply to all new and existing tenants...
'People moved by DWP from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit after April 2019 whose overall benefit entitlement is lower will be protected, in cash terms, under transitional protection arrangements. On reaching state pension age* Universal Credit claimants flowing back on to Housing Benefit with tenancies signed before April 2016 will also be protected. " (We can assume he meant Pension Credit age?)
More on LHA Cap here.

22nd November 2016: "Pay to Stay" will now be voluntary for both council housing and social housing.

16th November 2016: Final Universal Credit Full (Digital) Service roll-out schedule announced here. More on Full Service here.

16th November 2016: Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green announces that sanctioned claimants who are homeless and/or have mental health issues will not have to wait 14 days for a hardship payment (ie same as people with children or long term disablement/sickness.) Speech here. More on hardship payments here.

16th November 2016: Damian Green promises changes to Bedroom Tax regs  "as soon as we practicably can" - re: wins at Supreme Court - see 9th November below. Parliamentary debate here.

10th November 2016: Inquiry into Benefits Sanctions launched by Public Accounts Committee. Written evidence to be submitted by 6th December 2016. Click here for how to do this.

9th November 2016: Supreme Court rules on Bedroom Tax. 2 cases won - the Rutherfords - whose disabled grandson who needs a bedroom for an overnight carer - & Jacqueline Carmichael whose husband has to sleep in a separate bedroom as the hospital bed she requires due to her spina bifida takes up all the space in her bedroom. The Judge ruled that the bedroom tax scheme discriminated against people who needed an additional room as a direct result of their disability.

The judges recognised that there appears to be no reason to distinguish between adult partners who cannot share a bedroom because of disability and children who cannot do so because of disability; or between adults and children in need of an overnight carer.

5 other cases lost - these include where a bedroom is used as a sanctuary or "panic" room; where a bedroom is used to store mobility equipment; and shared care of a disabled son.

Ruling here.
Until the regulations are changed however, the only recourse for people in this situation os to request a DHP.

9th November 2016: lower Benefit Cap rollout timetable announced here

7th November 2016: Changes to EEA (Immigration Status) regs set out in Statutory Instrument here. Regularises various caselaw eg that for derivative right of residence child of working EEA national does not have to have been in education at the time; that reception year counts as education.

7th November 2016: Lower Benefit Cap starts being rolled out (over 12 weeks) from today. Guardian's Allowance and Carers Allowance removed from what counts as "total welfare" for the Benefit Cap. More on the Benefit Cap under UC here and under HB here.

21st October 2016: Government consultation on limit to two children in Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit - ends 27th November. Click here.

19th October 2016: New HB Supported Housing Case Law: CH/1286/2016 -
The fact that another provider is obliged to provide care is potentially relevant when assessing what the accommodation provider actually does and the ‘de mininis’ test, but the fact that the claimant had a care package provided separately did not mean that the accommodation provider was not also providing support. Click here.

13th October 2016: Families who adopt a child when they already have two or more children will be able to get extra Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit  -
we feel this will work by making the adopted 'invisible' when working out how many children the claimant is responsible for. Click here.

12th October 2016: Universal Credit added as a qualifying benefit for Healthy Start Scheme food and vitamins from 1st November.
Click here.

11th October 2016: Government announce those with the most severe health conditions will not need their 'fitness for work' to be reassessed for ESA / UC
- this will apply to those with lifelong, often progressive and incurable conditions that are unlikely to ever to able to move closed to the labour market  and into work'. Click here.

6th October 2016: NHF report into the proposed social housing LHA Cap
finds that 26,000 general needs tenants are likely to be affected - seeing on average a £18 a week drop in their HB award - when the LHA Cap takes effect in April 2018. Report here. More on the proposed LHA Cap here.

3rd October 2016: Consultation paper on dramatic changes to Tribunal systems,
including reduced panel members, more online approach and "virtual" hearings. Consultation responses to be in by 27th October. Consultation paper and how to respond here.

3rd October 2016: Damian Green says ESA claimants with severe lifelong conditions will not face 6 monthly re-assessments.
Guardian article here.

1st October 2016: Increase in national minimum wage in force from 1st October 2016: £6.95 Age 21-24 - £6.95; age 18-20 - £5.55; age under 18 or apprenticeship rate - £3.40

16th September 2016: Damian Green announced that the Social Housing LHA Cap will be deferred for supported housing until 2019/20 - but all tenancies will be affected at that time.
And the Shared Accommodation Rate will not apply to supported housing. Damian Green also said that "At this point (ie 2019/20) we will bring in a new funding model for supported housing"; and that there will be ring-fenced funding to help with costs above the LHA rate - in England this will be devolved "to local authorities to provide additional ‘top up’ funding to providers where necessary"; in Wales and Scotland "an equivalent amount will be provided and it will be for those administrations to decide how best to allocate the funding". The government have yet to decide on the funding model for shorter term supported accommodation ie refuges and hostels. Damian Green's written statement here. More on the Cap in our briefing here, and on this page.

14th September 2016: Need to check for incorrect terminations/ reductions of Tax Credit awards.
Concentrix- company tasked with reducing fraud & error in Tax Credits payments - will not have their contract with HMRC renewed following wrongly closing claimant's awards. Guardian report here.

9th September 2016: 2 new employment programmes in Scotland to begin from April 2017.
  • Work First Scotland, providing employment support for up to 3,300 disabled people, working with existing DWP providers of Work Choice in Scotland; and
  • Work Able Scotland, managed by Skills Development Scotland, seeking to ensure up to 1,500 starts for people with a health condition who want to enter work. More here.
5th September 2016: From today, the Scottish Parliament assumes powers to:
  • Create new benefits in devolved areas.
  • Top up reserved benefits (such Universal Credit, Tax Credits and Child Benefit).
  • Make discretionary payments and assistance.
  • Change employment support.
  • Make changes to Universal Credit for the costs of rented accommodation.
  • Make changes to Universal Credit on the timing of payments and recipients.
From 1st April 2017 they will take on the power to make DHPS; with responsibility for carers and disability benefits, maternity payments and funeral payments) transfering at a later date.

31st August 2016: Guide for housing staff working with refugees and asylum seekers published by the Scottish Refugee Council - here. More on benefits for people from abroad here.

31st August 2016: Benefit Cap:
newly affected families rolled out over 12 weeks from Nov 14th; those previously affected start from Nov 7th. First will be LAs with least affected. Oct 5th - letters sent to previously affected carers notifying they will be exempted from Nov 7th. More on changes to the Benefit Cap here.

25th August 2016: EEA nationals and benefits: Upper Tribunal Judge clarifies "genuine" in "genuine prospect of employment"
and advised against insisting on "compelling" evidence of a genuine prospect of work in deciding if an unemployed person could retain worker status / jobseeker status. More on EEA nationals & benefits here. Case 2016 UKUT 372 AAC here

19th August 2016: The Upper Tribunal for Scotland Rules of Procedure 2016 regulations have been laid,
and will come into force from 1st December 2016, applying until the powers of the Scottish Civil Justice Council and the Court of Session to make Tribunal Rules come into force. And The Scottish Tribunals (Time Limits) Regulations 2016 set the time limit to appeal to a First or Upper Tier Tribunal as 30 days- extendable if in the interests of justice. More on challenging decisions here (Housing Benefit) and here (Universal Credit.)

17th August 2016: Circular S9/2016 details the "New Burdens Funding"
to be distributed to Local Authorities i September to help with covering the costs of temporary accommodation in Universal Credit Full Service areas.The circular lists the one-off payments, which are based on the extent of temporary accommodation in the LA. Some only get a few pounds (Leicester- £1!).The funds replace the temporary accommodation management fee that disappears in April 2017, as a filler before new funding to be announced by the DCLG. The bulletin does not dictate how this money is to be used (but it is an amount paid to LAs, not a top-up to the Housing Cost element in individual's UC). More on temporary accommodation under UC here.

17th August 2016: DWP issues Circular HB/GB/2016 to remind LAs that Discretionary Housing Payments can be paid to Universal Credit claimants once their UC award is established.
More on DHPs here.

8th August 2016: Reduced Benefit Cap begins November 7th,
starting with the Local Authority areas with the fewest affected claimants. More on Benefit Cap (HB) here and Benefit Cap (UC) here.

4th August 2016: From 22nd June ’16, all APA payments for UC Full Service tenants are being paid via the 3rd Party Creditor payments process. Details on letter from DWP here.

4th August 2016: Citizens Advice study on Welfare Reform and Working People published here.
Statistics include: 41% of UC claimants now in work; 3 in 5 not confident they could increase their working hours. More on UC for workers here.

28th July 2016: Local Government Association publish a summary of the Housing & Planning Act 2016: here.

20th July 2016: Universal Credit not to be fully rolled out until 2022.
Damian Green written statement here. Plus two child limit: UC claims from families with > 2 children will be redirected to Tax Credits until Nov 2018; families on UC who have a 3rd child after April 2017 will only receive 2 child elements; removal of UC higher rate child element for 1st child will now only apply where 1st child born post 06/04/17. And migration to UC will now not begin until July 2019. More on UC reforms here.

15th July 2016. New "right to rent" guide published on gov.uk here.

 

14th July 2016: Evaluation of "Universal Support delivered locally" here. Main lessons learned:Integrated support model was effective, where a single adviser delivered core personal budgeting and/ or digital support; as was Sequenced support which focused on highest priority needs first (like debt, housing or health) and used each stage to lead on to the next. Passive models – relying on call-backs or claimant action – often led to drop-out. Foundation-level support services in English, reading, writing or numeracy need to be available.The use of common information systems for data sharing between partners should be explored further.

11th July 2016: New statistics on DHP spends by LAS here.

11th July 2016: HB 4 week limit on temporary absence outside Great Britain to begin 28th July 2016.
Amendment regs here. More on HB when absent abroad here.

5th July 2016: Amendments to regulations on sanctions for JSA, ESA and UC –
where claimants have one or more sanctionable offences, and an offence occurs within 14 days of a previous one, the length of that new sanction will last as long as the previous. And where a UC claimant starts work and earns earn an amount equal to at least 16 hours at their appropriate minimum wage for 6 months, their sanction and hardship debts will be written off. More on JSA sanctions here. More on ESA sanctions here. More on UC sanctions here. Amended regulations here.

4th July 2016: Family Resources Survey published by office of National Statistics.
Stats on housing, benefits, pensions, work, carers,disability - for 2014/15 (20,000 households participated).

3rd July 2016: NHF publish their proposals for the future if supported housing: here.

28th June 2016: DWP statistics on unclaimed means-tested benefits in 2014/15 shows £13 billion of available benefits were unclaimed, specifically:

  • Income based JSA up to £2.4 billion (50% of those entitled)
  • Pension Credit up to £3.1 billion (40% of those entitled)
  • HB up to £4.6 billion (20% of those entitled)
  • Income Support and Income Related ESA up to £2.9 billion (20% of those entitled)

28th June 2016: DWP statistics for 2014/15 reveal 10% of adults in working families to be living in poverty*,
and a 19% increase in the number of children living in poverty. *Defined as where the income is less than 60 per cent of median income. Before housing costs. Poverty and income inequality in Scotland 2014/2015 reveal an increase in poverty before housing costs at 15%, with child poverty before housing costs at 17%.

27th June 2016: The "emergency brake" on in-work benefits and for restrictions on child benefit for EEA national worker whose children live abroad will no longer happen.
These would have allowed the UK to (a) restrict the child benefit paid to what the parent would have received in their home state and (b) to limit the access of newly arriving EU workers to non-contributory in-work benefits for up to four years from starting work.
A joint statement from top EU officials said "As agreed, the 'New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the EU', reached at the European Council on 18 to 19 February 2016, will now not take effect and ceases to exist. There will be no renegotiation".

13th June 2016: Citizens Advice report shows 4.5 million in England/Wales in insecure work
- over 2.3m work variable shift patterns, 1.1m on temp contracts, 800,000 on zero hour or agency contracts.

11th June 2016: New HB overpayment caselaw - CH/1521/2015 - claimant tried to tell ALMO he'd left the property (wife, tenant but not claimant) still there. ALMO refused to pass info to HB as he wasn't tenant. Hence overpayment. Judge said could amount to official error. More on official error here.

8th June 2016: New "how to" video from DWP on Universal Credit in digital areas. Here.
More on Digital Service here.

8th June 2016: NFA/ARCH report measuring the impact of Universal Credit - here.

7th June 2016: New "vulnerability guide" for money/debt advisers published by Money Advice Trust - here.

30th May 2016: Nicola Sturgeon's speech on plans for changes to welfare in Scotland here.

30th May 2016: NHF wants your views on the future of supported housing and how it should be funded.
Consultation document and more info here. Responses needed by 16/06/16.

25th May 2016: Further areas in roll out of digital Universal Credit announced - legislation here.
More on the Digital Service here.

24th May 2016: Letters to claimants to be affected by Benefit Cap reductions start being sent today. NHF report here.
More on Benefit Cap here (HB) and here (UC).

20th May 2016: NHF wants your views on the future of supported housing - deadline 16th June. Here.

20th May 2016: report by York University on claimants' experiences of Universal Credit conditionaility and sanctions here.
More on conditionality here.

19th May 2016: Tribunal caseworkers empowered to make some tribunal decisions, with the exception of ‘substantive final decisions’.
Appellants will be able to request a fresh decision by a judge, in writing, within 14 days of the decision. Practice statement here, for a period of six months from 20 April 2016, and may be extended to twelve months following a review.

17th May 2016: Queens Speech here includes plans for new Bill of Rights to 'reform the UK human rights framework';
Lifetime Savings Bill - a savings matching scheme for WTC / UC recipients; Life Chances Strategy to tackle root causes of child poverty; money guidance body to replace the Money Advice Service.

17th May 2016: Re below -Andrew Clarke (DWP Universal Credit Programme Delivery Partners & External Enagagement) has advised that Thursday 26th May is the actual cut-off point,
and further communications will be issued in early June with confirmation of the deployment date and follow up actions for landlords have who have not responded. Letter to landlords here and actions required here.

13th May 2016: IMPORTANT: Social housing providers' deadline today to get their contact details to DWP to ensure to get notifications of new Universal Credit claimants.
Details and guide from NHF here.

26th April 2016: Crisis Points Report by buttle.org.uk reveals areas of worst deprivation and crisis amongst families in children in the UK.
Buttle - a charity working with children and young people in need- hope the report will enable local authorities, charities and voluntary agencies to pinpoint and plan action for those most in need.

26th April 2016: Impact of recent welfare reforms published by Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (at Sheffield Hallam Uni) shows working social housing tenants anticipated loss in annual income by 20/21 as £1690 per year (and £1330 average for working & non-working). NHF report here. CRESR report here.

19th April 2016: Delay to 4 week limit to temporary absence outside Great Britain, for Housing Benefit and Pension Credit.
G4/2016 confirms will now begin "summer 2016".

18th April 2016: Scotland Act 2016 published,
including Part 3 on welfare benefits and employment support.

18th April 2016: Scottish Welfare Fund Independent Review body launched 01.04.16.
Website here.

11th April 2016: From today working Universal Credit claimants will see a reduction in their next UC award due to the reduction / removal of work allowances.
Guardian article on impact here. More on UC work allowances here.

6th April 2016: Max recovery rate of Tax Credit overpayments for those whose household incomes are £20,000+ increases from 25% to 50%.
Report on this and other recent changes to Tax Credit recovery by Low Incomes Tax Reform Group here.

5th April 2016: Council Tax Support, 39 English local authorities increase Council Tax minimum payment under Council Tax Support scheme.
The New Policy Institute calculates 340,000 families will be worse off in 2016/17, with an average annual increase in Council Tax payments of £171.00.
Check on this useful map from CouncilTaxSupport.org to see the % minimum payment for each local authority.

1st April 2016: Bedroom Tax - Upper Tier Tribunal decision,
CH/454/2015 on bedroom tax rules that "a bedroom should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes (see paragraph 33 of Nelson), as well as providing space for dressing and undressing." For more detail and standard letters click here.

30th March 2016: Government statistics show HB overpayments have increased,
as has overpayment recovery. Many overpayments can be challenged - either as not recoverable or in terms of who should repay them. More here.

24th March 2016: Scotland Act receives Royal Assent.
Increased powers include the ability to set income tax rates and thresholds, control over a significant part of the welfare system and a wide range of other measures. After the May 2016 elections the Scottish government will be able to determine support for the disabled and carers, develop benefits for one off expenses, and short term discretionary payments, and make some changes to jobseekers allowance and universal credit. Act here.

18th March 2016: Flexible Support Fund, 
MP Priti Patel confirms that DWP Work Coaches should offer Flexible Support Fund to UC claimants affected by the reduction in the work allowance. Hansard here.

17th March 2016: Welfare Reform Bill becomes Welfare Reform Act - ie receives Royal Assent.
Main changes:
Benefit Cap reduction - UC here; HB here. (phasing in from Autumn 2016)
Freezing Social Security benefit /Tax Credit rates for four more years (April 2017; 2018; 2019; 2020).
Reductions to Universal Credit and Tax Credits for families (from 2017)
Removal of work-related activity component in UC and ESA. (April 2017)
Support for Mortgage Interest becoming a loan and reverting waiting period to original 39 weeks. (April 2018)
Increased conditionality for UC claimants with young children (work focused interviews where child aged one; work focused interviews & work preparation where child aged 2 - after that full conditionality) (From April 2017).
1% rent reduction (April 2016)
Changes to reporting and data publication, including renaming the Child Poverty Commission as the Life Chances Commission 2010.click here.