Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Newsletters: December 2017

December 2017 Newsletter

Season's Greetings and welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information.

In this issue find out more about:

  • No new UC claims in Live Service areas from January - who can use this to their advantage?
  • Advance Payments - important information for anyone making a new UC claim in December 2017.
  • Risk of Sanctions at Christmas - if claimants take time off from their job searching.
  • UC Conditionality & Sanctions - new training course now available to book.
  • UC & Non-dep deductions - many claimants losing out!
  • DWP Opening Hours - during the holiday period.
  • Free School Meals for UC Claimants in England - proposed changes from April 2018 and consultation.
  • Success stories - helping you to help your tenants.

    As well as:
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and chocolates for you!
  • This month's really useful standard letter.
  • This month's really useful tool!

The 'Gateway'
is closing!

- no new UC claims in Live/Gateway areas from 1st January

From 1st January 2018 the only people able to make a new claim for Universal credit will be those living in a Full / digital service area.

You are probably aware that in Live/Gateway/Non-digital UC areas, only certain new jobseekers are allowed to claim Universal Credit. The 'Gateway Conditions' were introduced to'sift out' anyone whose circumstances (at the point in time when they need to claim) are too complicated for the Live Service computer system to deal with.

One of the announcements made by the government in the Autumn 2017 Budget was that, from 1st January 2018 no new claims for UC will be taken in Live/Gateway UC areas. This is because they want to focus resources on the Full/Digital Service computer system.

So, in areas which have not yet got the Full/Digital Service, new jobseekers will, from 1st January onwards, be able to claim the 'legacy' benefits ie JSA, CTC, HB instead of having to claim UC.

Some people would be worse off on Universal Credit than on the legacy benefits system - so could it be beneficial for a new jobseeker to wait until 1st January to make their claim?

If someone becomes a new jobseeker before 1st January 2018 and they would pass the gateway conditions and therefore have to claim UC, it may be better if they delay claiming until the new year and claim the legacy benefits instead. If they are asking you for advice, it is certainly worth doing a 'better off' calculation for them. Many claimants are worse off on UC - click here.

If they are going to be worse off on UC, some claimants might decide to wait a week or two ie until 1st January 2018, until they can claim Jobseeker's Allowance instead.

However, there is no reason why they cannot claim Housing Benefit straight away (and in the Family Gateway arrears Child tax Credit), ie. before the end of December 2017 (it is just Income-Based JSA that cannot be claimed in a Live/Gateway area before 1.1.18 by people who pass the Gateway Conditions).

If they have made a claim for UC but it has not been decided ie the amount of their first payment not yet assessed, then they can end their UC claim and claim HB (and CTC) now and IR-JSA in the new year. More info on this here

How does this affect existing UC claimants living in Live/gateway areas?

Existing claimants are unaffected - they will stay on UC and when their area goes on to the Full / Digital service will be invited to set themselves up on the Digital service instead.

After 1st January 2018 will someone living in a Live/Gateway area who is already on UC be able to end their claim and go back on the legacy benefit system?

Until the Regulations are published we will not know the answer to this question - but we would suspect that the DWP will include a rule that says anyone who has been on UC in the previous 6 months will not be able to make a new claim for any legacy benefit. But we may be wrong - we will update you in the next newsletter!

UC Advances

- for those making a new claim in December

UC claimants who make a new claim in December and receive an Advance Payment will be able to apply for a second Advance Payment in January if needed.

In the Autumn 2017 Budget, in recognition of some of the problems faced by new UC claimants, the government made some concessions and announced various changes -click here.

Two of the changes affect Advance Payments and are due to be introduced from 1st January 2018. But anyone who is making their new claim in December should also be aware of one of the changes!

An Advance Payment is an advance of their UC award - so it is an interest free loan which the claimant can borrow to tide them over until their first UC payday which is paid back over a 6 or 12 month period.

There are two types of Advances available for new claimants - the 'New Claim Advance', which currently has a 6 month maximum repayment period and the 'Benefit Transfer Advance', with a 12 month maximum repayment period. A common problem for new UC claimants has been that those who should have been offered a 'Benefit Transfer Advance' were offered a 'New Claim Advance' instead.

One of the changes from January will be that the maximum repayment periods for both types of advances will be aligned, to 12 months.

The other change is to the amount which someone can borrow. For both types of advance, the claimant can currently be offered a loan of up to 50% of the estimated amount of the first UC monthly award. This is to increase, from 1st January 2018, to up to 100% of the estimated first monthly UC award.

But the government has said that anyone who makes their new claim in December 2017 and is offered an advance at up to 50% of their estimated award will be able to access a further loan (before the end of their first Monthly Assessment Period) of up to 50% on or after 1st January 2018.

More information here.

What nobody wants for Christmas-

a sanction!

We are aware of somebody who took the day off from his job-searching last Christmas Day - and received a sanction!

He was claiming Universal Credit and his Claimant Commitment required him to spend 35 hours per week looking for and preparing for work.

But, it would appear that, there is no 'time off' a Claimant Commitment for a bank holiday!

If someone wants to 'take the day off', they will still need to demonstrate that they have spent 35 hours during that week doing the required activities (or have agreed with their work coach in advance to have a reduced commitment for that week).

You can find more information about Universal Credit conditionality and sanctions here.

New Training Course!

Universal Credit -
Conditionality and Sanctions

You can find the course outline here.

Book an in-house course for just £895+vat
for a full days training for up to 16 delegates.

Problems with UC System & Non-Dep Deductions

Where the UC claimant (or partner) is getting daily living PIP or mid or high rate care DLA - then no non dependant deduction should be taken.

However, we have become aware that the Digital UC system does not record when a claimant is on daily living PIP or mid or high rate care DLA.

In these cases, the DWP have to manually override the system to ensure no non-dependant deduction is taken.

But this does not always happen automatically.

We have also heard that when a claimant contacts the UC Helpline to request the exception they are being told that none exists!
In these cases, the claimant should request a mandatory reconsideration of their award on their journal - quoting para 15, schedule 4 of the UC Regs.

More information 

Opening Hours
for Christmas and New Year

Details of DWP opening hours over the Christmas and New Year period in England, Wales and Scotland are now available here.

On Monday 25th December 2017, Tuesday 26th December 2017 and Monday 1st January 2018 all DWP telephone helplines and Jobcentres will be closed.

On Wednesday 27th December 2017 there is a limited service: Phone lines will be open, but for urgent enquiries about payments only. In England and Wales Jobcentres will be closed, however in Scotland Jobcentres will be open, but for urgent enquiries about payments only.

Phone lines and Jobcentres will be open as usual on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th December 2017.

On Tuesday 2 January 2018 there is a limited service: Phone lines will be open, but for urgent enquiries about payments only. In England and Wales Jobcentres will be open, but for urgent enquiries about payments only, whereas in Scotland Jobcentres will be closed.

Free School Meals
for UC Claimants
in England

- have your say!

Any Universal Credit claimant in England or Wales can currently get free school meals for their children - regardless of their income. But this is all about to change!

All English and Welsh primary school children in state schools, in reception and years one and two receive free school meals, as do children in primary 1 to 3 in Scotland.

Older children can get free school meals if their parent or main carer receives a 'passport' benefit.

At the moment in England and Wales, Universal Credit is a 'passport' to free school meals, regardless of any earnings the claimant might have.

In Scotland an income threshold of £610 per month has been introduced, so anyone on UC who has take home pay of more than £610 in the previous UC Monthly Assessment Period does not qualify for free school meals.

The government is proposing to introduce a similar income threshold for UC claimants in England from April 2018.

The intention is that eligibility for free school meals will be for children from households with an income of up to £7,400 a year, excluding benefits.

You can find (and respond to) the consultation here
You have until 11th January 2018 to have your say!

The Welsh Government has not yet decided what to do about free school meals under Universal Credit.

Have you seen our latest UC Booklet?

It's all about the
UC Digital service.

Find out how to order copies here.

Digital UC - The Essentials

Get yourself booked on to one of our open courses

Monday 19th February 2018
Venue: Housing Solutions, Maidenhead

Thursday 12th April 2018
Venue: EMH Homes, Coalville, Nr Leicester

Just £95+vat per delegate
Click here for more details

Get booked on: email training@housingsystems.co.uk

Not near you? Let us know if you would be interested in attending this course if it was being run in your area and we'll see if we can set one up.

"Excellent trainer, very relevant and flagged up some strategic issues. I never thought I'd say I enjoyed a Welfare Benefits training session - but I really did!In fact we'd like to make it an annual event."
Keniston HA

"This was really, really useful - the best UC course I have attended so far."
Debt and Welfare Benefits Officer

Recent successes

Recently, we have received a number of queries about EEA nationals being refused Housing Benefit because they do not earn enough.

The HB Office decision was that because they were not earning £157 a week or more, then their work could not be considered 'genuine and effective', they could not therefore have 'worker' status and were not entitled to HB.

However, the 'earning £157 a week or more for three months' rule is to prevent the HB Office from having to consider every case on its merits. Instead, where the claimant has been earning £157 a week or more for three months, then the HB Office can automatically treat them as being in 'genuine and effective work' and therefore award HB. But if not, the HB Office is required to go on to look at the claimant's work situation in more detail.

Someone who has just started work can be in 'genuine and effective work', as can someone who has been working for several months but earnings less than £157 a week - more on the website here.
In other words, just because an EEA national isn't earning £157 a week or more doesn't automatically mean that they are not in genuine and effective work.

In addition, in the majority of these cases, the HB Office only focused on one aspect of the claimant's situation ie their work status, they did not go on to investigate whether they may qualify for HB with a different status.

One typical example was about an 18 year old EEA national who moved to Great Britain 10 years ago with her parents. She was no longer able to live with her parents due to violence and was offered a tenancy. She had left college and was working on a zero-hour contract. Whilst she was working, her average weekly wage was less than £157. So HB was refused as she was not considered to be in genuine and effective work.

What they failed to do was to investigate her work situation further - even though she was earning less than £157 a week was her employment effective (ie was she doing something useful rather than something marginal and ancillary) and was it genuine (ie with a contract of employment rather than for instance for a family member)? They also failed to consider whether she could be eligible to claim through having a'permanent residence' status, or through being the family member of an EEA national who has the 'right to reside'.

Following our advice,the housing worker helped the tenant request that the HB Office looked into these matters further. The HB Office changed the decision and agreed to pay HB.

You can find lots of information about HB for EEA nationals here.

If you have a complex query and you cannot find the information you need on our website, you can email us at info@housingsystems.co.uk

This month's useful
standard letter

With hundreds of useful standard letters on the website it would be surprising if you were aware of all of them. So each month we highlight one for you.

This month we would like to highlight:
Standard Letter HB UC2.

This letter is to request Housing Benefit for the notice period when a UC claimant is moving out of 'specified accommodation'.

Universal Credit claimants who live in'specified accommodation' (which is certain types of supported housing) do not have help with the rent for the specified accommodation included as part of their Universal Credit assessment. They claim Housing Benefit instead.

When someone moves out of specified accommodation, if they unavoidably have to move before the end of the notice period,they should be able to receive Housing Benefit for the notice period.

You can find the letter here.

This month's

useful 'tool'

In addition to highlighting one of our standard letters in each newsletter- we thought you may find it helpful if we also remind you each month about the many tools which are at your fingertips too!

Have you seen our updated....

Welfare Reform Changes Timeline?

With so many changes in recent months and years and more due to happen in the near future, it can be difficult to keep abreast of them all!

Our timeline is a useful,quick reference guide. It lists the changes since 2016 and those still to come.

You won't be surprised that this timeline has been updated many times, whenever new changes have been announced.
It will, of course, continue to be updated as necessary!

You can find the latest version here.

Have you received...


2018 Calendar

If not - contact us!

Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank

Every month we give you the chance to win £50 for your local food bank.
The winner will be selected at random and can nominate a food bank of their choice to receive a £50 cheque from us, and will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

Well done to last month's winner -
Yuhresa Duff from Weaver Vale Housing Trust- a £50 cheque will be making its way to her nominated Food Bank.

To enter this month's competition, just email the answer to the question below to us by Friday 19th January for your chance to win.

Here is this month's quiz question:

EEA Nationals who have a 'permanent residence' are able to claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

An EEA National will have a 'permanent residence' if they have been in the UK as a 'qualified person' for a continuous period of five years or more.

Someone who is self-sufficient could be a 'qualified person'.

Can you name 5 other statuses that might mean someone counts as 'qualifed'?

Find your answer here.

email your answer to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

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