Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Newsletters: January 2018

January 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information.

In this issue find out more about:

  • More UC Changes announced
  • Escaping the Lobster Pot - now possible for more people, but is it always the best option?
  • Bedroom Tax - Case Law update.
  • UC Sanctions - a Tribunal decision which could be useful when challenging sanctions.
  • UC Conditionality & Sanctions - new training course now available to book in-house.
  • Challenging UC decisions - problems with requesting Mandatory Reconsiderations
  • UC - The Essentials - training course - book in-house for your staff.
  • PIP news - Important development on mental health and Planning and Following Journeys.
  • 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!

More changes to Universal Credit during 2018!


The government have published the amending regulations needed to put into place the changes to UC announced in the Autumn 2017 budget - and there are a few unexpected changes too - highlighted in purple:
  • 7 waiting days - to be abolished from 14th February 2018 - click here for more information.
  • Two week HB run-on - for those moving from HB to UC from April 11th 2018 - click here for more information.
  • Discretion for extending assessment period where claim backdated- from 11th April 2018, click here for more information.
  • Temporary accommodation - to be funded by Housing Benefit from 11th April 2018 - click here.
  • Changes to DHP rules for claimants living in 'specified accommodation' and 'temporary accommodation- from 11th April 2018 - click here for more information.
  • Surplus earnings rules - take effect from 11th April 2018 - click here for more information.
  • New time limit for providing evidence following beneficial change - reduced to 14 days from 11th April 2018 - click here for more information.
  • New rules when suspending conditionality for those previously 'found fit' or treated as 'found fit' click here for more information.
  • Changes to assessment - small increase in work allowance from 9th April 2018, two additional types of pensions added to list of unearned income from 11th April 2018, and net state pension figure to be used where amount of state pension reduced due to overlapping benefit rules - click here for more information.
  • Housing Costs for 18-21 year olds - Armed Forces Independence Payment added to list of benefits that would exclude a claimant from the 'no Housing Costs Element' rules under Full / Digital UC. More information on these rules here.

Chance to Escape the Lobster Pot

- for UC claimantsin Live/Gateway areas

From 1st January 2018 no new claims for Universal Credit are being taken in Live (non-digital) Service areas.

In Live Service areas it has always been possible for some UC claimants to 'escape the lobster pot'. When a claimant's circumstances changed and they no longer 'passed the gateway conditions', they could withdraw their UC claim and then claim legacy benefits instead.

The change from 1st January 2018 - that no new claims for UC will be taken in Live/Gateway UC areas - means that escaping the lobster pot is now possible for even more people.

The government have not introduced any amendment regulations, so contrary to what we anticipated, there are no new restrictions to keep existing 'Live Service' UC claimants on UC in Live Service areas. In fact, Bulletin U4/2017 to Local Authorities says,

Where a claimant terminates their Universal Credit live service claim by choice they will be able to make a new claim to HB straight away.

So, many claimants who would have been 'trapped' in the lobster pot before 1st January, ie. those who would have been prevented from claiming legacy benefits because they would have 'passed' the UC gateway conditions, are now able to make a new claim for legacy benefits if they withdraw their UC claim first.
NOTE: Some claimants are still classed as a 'UC claimant' even if their claim for UC ends - see below.

Escaping Sanctions!
Escaping the lobster pot is also a way of escaping a UC sanction! In fact, making a claim for 'Old-Style' JSA or ESA, or Income Support 'wipes the slate clean', so that even if the claimant moves back on to Universal Credit at some later date, the sanction period will no longer exist.

Whilst this could be a great opportunity for some people - please be aware of the following points:

This advice is only relevant to claimants who are on the Live / Gateway UC Service and who are living in a Live / Gateway Service area.

There are some people who, even if they withdraw their UC claim, remain classed as a 'UC claimant', so cannot claim legacy benefits.
Under the Live / Gateway UC service this would be:

  • For a period of six months after their entitlement to UC was nil and the assessment included earnings.
  • They were claiming UC with a partner and they have separated or their partner has died.

Not everyone is better off on legacy benefits than on UC!
Whilst some people will be better off financially on legacy benefits, this does not apply to everyone! It is important for claimants to seek specialist advice about their particular circumstances.

Additional considerations for anyone moving from UC to ESA
Where someone ends their UC claim and wishes to claim ESA instead, this claim for ESA is a NEW claim with a NEW period of limited capability for work ie the two claims are not linked.
The April 2017 rules apply to new ESA claims. So if the claimant claims ESA instead of UC, if they are put in the Work Related Activity Group, they will not get the Work Related Activity Component (even if they had the LCW element on UC!)
As a new ESA claimant they may be subject to 7 waiting days and they will go into the 'Assessment Phase' for the first 13 weeks.
They will have a new Work Capability Assessment (they may be found fit for work or 'downgraded' to the Work Related Activity Group).
If they are put in the Support Group, they will only get the Support Component from week 14.

Timing is crucial!
Anyone wishing to escape the lobster pot should withdraw their UC claim after the end of their Monthly Assessment Period - so that they don't lose out on up to a whole month's UC!

Read our Briefing - Escaping the UC 'Lobster Pot'..... for more information click here.

And remember- if you are advising someone about this matter, you can email us at info@housingsystems.co.uk

Size/shape of a bedroom

- 2 new decisions

There have been two recent Upper Tribunal decisions relating to the Bedroom Tax and the size of the room.

You may remember the 'Nelson' case - where the Judge said that the factors that have to be taken into account when considering whether a room is a bedroom include: size, height, storage space/access to storage, privacy, natural light ie a window, ventilation, heating. Then, another case in which the judge followed the Nelson decision and stated that a bedroom should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes, as well as providing space for dressing and undressing.

The recent cases

In the first case the Judge decided that a room of less than 50 square feet, which could only accommodate a bed and a chest of drawers, could be classed as a bedroom – as the chest of drawers could serve as both a bedside table and a place to store clothes.[2017] UKUT 443 (AAC)

The other case involved a family with two sons aged under 16 who (the family contended) could not share a bedroom because neither of the small bedrooms in their home were suitable to accommodate two beds or bunk beds.The Judge said the application of the size criteria must take account of the claimant's ability to use their bedrooms as required in the Regulations. The case itself was remitted for a fresh hearing,for further findings of fact on whether minor changes could be made one of the bedrooms to allow two children to occupy it (the top bunk was too close to a light fitting.)

For more information and links to the decisions click here.

For our new HB standard letter BT20 - click here.
And for our new UC standard letter UC BT11 - click here.

UC Sanctions-

new tribunal decision

In a recent Upper Tribunal decision, the Judge overturned a sanction because the DWP had failed to take into account the 'reasonable actions' the claimant had undertaken in work searching, and they had failed to reduce her expected hours of work search to take account of a domestic emergency.

The claimant had delayed in updating details of her job search due to a family crisis. But the DWP looked at what she had not done, rather than what she had done. She was sanctioned because she had not been engaged in work search amounting to 35 hours per week, as stated in her claimant commitment.

The Judge decided that the claimant had undertaken all reasonable work search action given the circumstances, so she should not have been sanctioned and that the decision maker should have considered any ‘relevant deductions’ from her expected hours, due to the domestic emergency.

You can find a link to the decision here and our new standard letter 
UC S11 here

NewTraining 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.

(That's less than £60+vat per delegate!)

Not enough money left in this year's budget? Spread the cost by buying a training voucher this financial year that can be used to book training anytime up to 31st December 2018.
Problems with requesting a
Mandatory Reconsideration
- for those on the Full / Digital UC Service

When a claimant wants a benefit decision looked at again because they disagree with it, they need to request a 'Mandatory Reconsideration' (MR).

The rules allow a claimant to request their MR
via the phone, by post, face-to-face or using their journal.

We are aware of various problems:

1. Claimants who have made their MR request on their journal, (even several times) but this has not been dealt with.
It is advisable to ring the call centre to check their request has been acknowledged and is being dealt with. They may need to make several phone calls to check it has not been forgotten!

2. Claimants being told that, in addition to entering their MR request on their journal, they must ring the call centre in order to have a declaration read to them.
This 'declaration' is probably that the claimant is giving correct and accurate information, etc. It would be best for the claimant to ring as soon as possible, so as not to cause any delays.

3. Claimants being informed of the decision of the MR request on their journal but not being sent a formal MR decision notice which they require if they wish to Appeal the decision.
They need to make a formal request for the decision notice (see standard letter UC CD20 - click here).

4. Claimants whose UC claim has been terminated are then unable to access their journal to make their MR request.
They will either need to request their MR by phone, by post, or face-to-face.
(The DWP are not always following the correct procedures when closing down UC claims - especially new claims. See 'This month's useful standard letter' below).

5. MR requests sent by post going missing.
It is always advisable to lodge the request using more than one method, so if possible the claimant should also add their request to the journal or ring the call centre to notify them / chase it up. Belt and braces!

More information 
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

Universal Credit is much more than just claiming online with several payments rolled into one.
Delegates on our 'Digital UC - The Essentials' course are always amazed at how much they didn't know about UC - how different it is to the existing benefits system - how much claimants are missing out on - and how much poor advice is being given to claimants leaving them in financial hardship and struggling to pay their rent.
This course aims to equip delegates with the information and tools they need to tackle the problems that arise, ensuring claimants receive their full entitlement and deal with the complexities of the system.

Why not book this in-house course for your staff for just £895+vat for a full day's training?
Just email: training@housingsystems.co.uk

Click here for the outline

"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

We are aware of many success stories from members who either used the information on our website/or used our email query service.

This one was after attending one of our popular Universal Credit training courses

A mixed age couple who had been advised by the DWP to claim UC, ended up over £130 a week better off by ending their UC claim and claiming Pension Credit and Housing Benefit instead.

Click here for more information.

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 two new letters - we are aware that the DWP do not always follow the correct procedures when closing claims - meaning some claimants are missing out on hundreds of pounds of UC!

UC CP7 is to request a Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision to 'close' the claim if the claimant has not attended their new claim interview. Claimants should be given a copy of their full Claimant Commitment and allowed a 'cooling off' period before their claim is terminated. More info here.

UC CP8 is to request a Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision to 'close' the claim if the claimant has not attended their verification interview. The Regulations state that a claimant has one calendar month to provide evidence. More info here.

You can find the letters 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....

EEA Nationals Flowcharts?

Recent case law means that EEA Nationals who give up self-employment can retain their 'self-employed' status - and therefore be able to claim benefits - for 6 months from the date their business is wound up.

You can find the latest UC version here.

And the latest HB one here.

Please see the website for more information on which EEA Nationals are able to claim Universal CreditHousing Benefit.

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 -
Emma from Plymouth Community Homes - a £50 cheque will be making its way to her nominated Food Bank.

To enter this month's competition, just email the answerto the question below to us by Friday 16th February for your chance to win.

Here is this month's quiz question:

Which of the following statements is true, A, B or C?

A. Anyone in England or Wales on Universal Credit can get free school meals for their children (or themselves) - ie there is currently no income limit.

B. Regardless of where they live, to get free school meals for their children (or themselves), a UC claimant will be entitled as long as they are not working ie any earnings in the previous Monthly assessment Period will mean no entitlement.

C. Regardless of where they live, to get free school meals for their children (or themselves) a UC claimant must have had net earnings in the previous Monthly Assessment Period below £610.

Find your answer here.

email your answer ie A, B or C to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

Using the links in the newsletter
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Not a member yet? Would you and your colleagues find information like this useful? Then contact us for more details about becoming a member: info@housingsystems.co.uk.
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