Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Newsletters: Jan/Feb 2019

January/February 2019 Newsletter

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

In this issue find out more about:

  • January UC announcements - Summary of the key announcements. 
  •  Mixed age couples - Changes from 15th May 2019
  • 'Off-line' UC claims - what we know about them.
  • EEA nationals - how will Brexit affect access to benefits?
  • No bank account? - how to ensure UC claim is not delayed
  • Welfare Reform training - that will make a difference - Book now!
  • 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! 

January UC announcements
There has been a lot of news in the last few weeks -
here is a summary of the main changes to be aware of!
  • The New 'SDP Gateway (NOTE: the SDP Gateway no longer applies - it was revoked from 27th January 2021)' from 16th January 2019. 
Anyone with a Severe Disability Premium in their legacy benefit (or who has had one in the previous month) who still satifies the eligibility criteria for the SDP, is protected from having to claim Universal Credit - for the time being - and can claim legacy benefits instead. (More info below)
  • 3+ children 'gateway' ends on 1st February 2019.
Families with 3 or more children will no longer be prevented from claiming Universal Credit (and will no longer be able to make a new claim for any legacy benefit - unless they 'fail' the new 'SDP Gateway (NOTE: the SDP Gateway no longer applies - it was revoked from 27th January 2021)'!) from 1st February onwards. (More info below)
  • No Changes to the Two Child Limit rules  
The rules were due to be stricter under UC - but the government's u-turn means the rules under UC will continue to mirror those in Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit - so NO CHANGE to the current rules. (More info below)
  • From 15th May 2019, most mixed age couples will no longer be able to make new claims for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit 
For most, when they find they need financial help, a mixed age couple's only option will be to make a new claim for UC. There will be some protection for mixed age couples who are already getting Pension Credit and/or HB under the State Pension Age Regulations when these rules come in. (More info below)

If you missed our bulletin of 15th January you can find it here.
From 15th May 2019 -
Most mixed age couples will no longer be able to make a new claim for PC or HB

At the moment mixed age couples, ie. where one is working age and the other is pension age, have a choice - they can claim Universal Credit OR they can claim Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and/or Tax Credits instead. 

However, the government has amended the Regulations, meaning that from 15th May 2019 (earlier than expected) mixed age couples will no longer be able to make new claims for Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit unless they are already getting Pension Credit or Housing Benefit (under the State Pension Credit age HB regulations).

Instead, if they need a financial top and/or help paying their rent they will need to claim Universal Credit. 

The big issue here is that the majority of mixed age couples are at least £140 a week worse off on UC compared to how much they would get from PC and HB based on the same circumstances!

Those mixed age couples already on Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit will not need to move onto UC while they remain entitled, ie. unless there is a break in their entitlement.

And any mixed age couple already on Universal Credit can - before 15th May 2019 - end their UC claim and claim Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and/or Tax Credits instead if they would be better off. This could make a significant difference to their weekly income for several years - click here.

However, there are still many pensioners who don't claim the Pension Credit / Housing Benefit they are entitled to. An award of just 50p a week could prevent them from having to claim Universal Credit in the future and could mean a higher benefit entitlement if their circumstances change (ie staying on PC/HB instead of having to claim UC).
It is estimated that 4 in 10 households who could qualify for Pension Credit fail to make a claim, which means around £3.5 billion a year in Pension Credit goes unclaimed! Some of those missing out will be mixed age couples.

So now is the time to promote awareness of Pension Credit (and HB)!

More information about this change - here.

The rules from May 2019 are quite complex - so watch out for our Briefing and 'Take-Up' pack - coming soon!

State Pension Age:
65 and rising...

One of the government's welfare reform measures is to increase the age at which someone can claim:

  • their State Retirement Pension
  • Pension Credit.

For men and women this age is now the same, with women's state retirement age (and therefore Pension Credit age) having reached 65 in December 2018. They are now gradually increasing: the government's plan is that state retirement age (and therefore Pension Credit age) will be 68 by 2039.

You can check someone's State Pension Age here.

Some other benefits use 'State Pension Age' as a cut off or starting point - so the increase in State Pension Age also affects ....

Personal Independence Payment - the upper age limit to make a new claim for PIP is State Pension Age (although existing awards can continue once someone reaches State Pension Age), and
Attendance Allowance - someone must have reached State Pension Age in order to be able to make a claim.
Housing Benefit - ie. having to wait longer to be able to claim Housing Benefit under the State Pension Credit age HB rules - particularly important if they're affected by the Bedroom Tax!
Winter Fuel Payments - someone must have reached Pension Credit Age by the 'qualifying week' (third week in September) to be eligible.

IMPORTANT! Any single person who is approaching State Pension Age and who is on Universal Credit should ensure they make an advance claim for Pension Credit (even if they are not sure they will qualify for Pension Credit!). Doing so will ensure that they receive Universal Credit up to the day they turn Pension Credit age. If they do not make an advance claim for Pension Credit, their UC entitlement will end at the start of the Monthly Assessment Period during which they turn Pension Credit Age (so, depending on how the dates fall, they could lose out on up to one month’s UC!) Click here for more information.

Protection from UC
for those with the
Severe Disability Premium

The government has introduced regulations to protect anyone who:

  • is receiving an 'existing' benefit that includes the Severe Disability Premium (SDP), or
  • has, within the past month, been receiving an 'existing' benefit that included the Severe Disability Premium and they have continued to satisfy the eligibility criteria for the SDP .
The 'existing' benefits are: Income-Related ESA, Income-Based JSA, Income Support and Housing Benefit.

If there is a change in their circumstances which would normally mean they need to claim Universal Credit, and that change would not stop them meeting the qualifying criteria for the SDP - then they are unable to make a new claim for Universal Credit. They will be able to make a new claim for any of the legacy benefits instead.

Those who continue to 'fail' this SDP Gateway (NOTE: the SDP Gateway no longer applies - it was revoked from 27th January 2021) will not need to move onto Universal Credit until they are manage-migrated - and then they should qualify for transitional protection, so they won't see a drop in their income at the point of moving onto UC.

Many ESA, JSA, IS and HB claimants miss out on the SDP - so it is worth checking that those who should be receiving it are!
It gives them more money to live on (an extra £69.40 per week for each person who qualifies) and it now also protects them from Universal Credit!

This rule is more complicated than it appears - making it difficult for advisers - so we have:
Added plenty of information on the new rules to the website here.
And a factsheet, 'Who qualifies for the SDP?' More info and link to factsheet here.
And a FLOWCHART to help work out whether someone can claim UC or legacy benefits.
As well as some Frequently Asked Questions - click here.

Note - several premiums exist with similar sounding names!
Please do not confuse the Severe Disability Premium with the Enhanced Disability Premium (which is sometimes called the Disability Income Guarantee), the Support Component or the Disability Premium (the Disability Premium exists in Income Based JSA and Income Support, but not ESA).

What about claimants who were entitled to the SDP (and still would be) who have already moved onto UC before the new Gateway Condition was introduced?

The government announced that it plans to provide some transitional protection for those who have already moved onto UC, in the form of the Transitional SDP Payment. However, we do not yet know when this will become available - the Regulations still need to be passed by Parliament.

We have been updating our resources including our...

UC Lettings flowchart

Click here


From 1st February 2019 –
New UC claims for families with
3+ children

From 1st February 2019, having 3 or more children no longer prevents someone from having to claim Universal Credit.

This ‘gateway condition’ will be removed, meaning anyone with 3 or more dependent children/young persons whose circumstances trigger the need for them to have to claim UC will need to do so. And anyone with 3 or more dependent children/young persons can make a new claim for UC if they wish (there are some families who will be better off on UC).

Think about the Benefit Cap before advising to claim UC!

Under the legacy benefit rules the Benefit Cap can only reduce a HB award. But under UC - because it is just one benefit - the whole of the claimant's UC award can be reduced. So there may be situations where a change in a claimant's circumstances would normally 'trigger' the need for them to claim UC - for example moving to a new LA area - but they may be better off staying on the legacy benefit system. This is where  the total amount of IS/JSA/ESA, Tax Credits and Child Benefit they are entitled to would be more than the UC they would be entitled to after a reduction due to the Benefit Cap.
More info and an example on the website here.


Two Child Limit

Two Child Element Update

The government had planned to have stricter 'two child limit' rules under UC (compared with Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) but their recent u-turn means that the UC rules will mirror the CTC/HB rules.

So Child Elements will continue be included in the UC assessment for:
  • Any adopted child / child under kinship care arrangement 
And – of the other children in the household:
  • The oldest and second oldest dependent child/ren in the household
And for a third or subsequent dependent child if:
  • the child was born before 6.4.17, or
  • an exception applies (multiple birth / non-consensual sex)
More information here.

We have updated our

Two Child Limit Leaflet

Click here
The 53-week rent year
What does it mean...?

We discuss the issues here.


Proposed Benefit Rates from April 2019
available here
EEA Nationals -
Act Now!


On the run-up to Brexit the government have introduced a new 'EU Settlement Scheme' for EEA Nationals currently living in the UK.

The current rules governing which EEA nationals living in the UK can claim benefits will continue for a while but this new scheme will make it easier for some EEA nationals to prove they have a right to claim benefits (which seems to be a particular problem for many claiming UC!).

The new scheme is for any EEA National (or a non EEA 'family member'#of an EEA National) who has been living in the UK for 5 years or more continuously* (regardless of what they have been doing) who are not a serious criminal or a threat to national security.
# see website for definition
* without being out of the UK for more than 6 months in any 12 month period (some extensions allowed).

Once granted settled status they can access benefits, education, healthcare and employment in exactly the same way as a British Citizen.

Until March 30th it's only open to those with a valid biometric passport. From then it's open to everyone. The deadline to apply is 30th June 2021 (or if it's a 'no deal' Brexit, by 31st December 2020).

More on this new 'settled status' here.

Offline UC Claims
for those who cannot manage an online claim

We all know that the DWP's expectation is that claims for Universal Credit are made online.

However, the DWP have increasingly recognised that some claimants will never be able to manage an online claim.
They have therefore introduced an 'offline' system available in exceptional circumstances to some claimants.

This offline system would involve not just making the claim over the phone, but would also mean the claimant then managing their claim 'offline' too, with no access to their journal, being able to report changes to the DWP by phone or letter and DWP notifications being sent to them by post.

If you are advising someone who needs to make a new claim for UC, but they are unlikely to be able to make an online claim and then manage an online UC account, then a phone call to the UC Helpline to explain this and request an 'offline' claim will be needed.

We have more information here

Please let us know your experiences of how this is working! 
Email us at info@housingsystems.co.uk


No Bank Account?
Don't let that
delay a UC claim!

The DWP would prefer Universal Credit to be paid into a bank, building society or transactional Credit Union account.

If someone who is trying to make a new claim for Universal Credit does not have a bank, building society or credit union account, they might encounter problems...

This is because the online Universal Credit claim asks for bank (etc) account details, including sort code and account number. If these boxes are left blank then the claimant cannot go any further with the online claim meaning they cannot submit it until they do!

But having a bank account is NOT a basic condition of entitlement to Universal Credit!

So it would be unfair to expect the claimant to open a bank account before submitting their UC claim - which could take a few days to sort out. They would, as a consequence, miss out on the UC they are entitled to for these days.

So what are the options?

If the claimant has a Post Office Card Account, they should enter those account details on the online claim. Universal Credit can be paid into a PO Card Account.

If the claimant has a trusted family member or friend, their account details could be entered on the claim - so that the claim can be made (and any Advance Payment sent via this account). The claimant could then open their own account and then update their UC account with the new bank details - hopefully in time for the first monthly UC payment. 
However, there are obvious risks with using someone else's account - what if they are overdrawn or tempted to spend the money themselves ? Or it could leave the claimant open to financial abuse, so this might not be an appropriate course of action.

There has been a 'workaround' which some people have used - by entering a valid sort code and '00000000' as the account number on the online claim. The purpose of this is to enter 'dummy' account details so as to progress the claim, and then get set up with a bank account as soon as possible. However, this no longer seems to work.

So another option is for the claimant to ring the UC Helpline on the day they try to make their online claim - to register their intention to claim. They should ask the call centre operator to make a note on their account (that they will have set up prior to being able to make the UC claim) that they want their claim to be dated from that day. See here for more details and a standard letter.

Need Training in 2019?

When you understand Universal Credit, you can make smart decisions about what to do next!

We are now taking bookings for 2019
Please contact us asap - dates are disappearing fast!!

Please see the website / our training brochure for more details of the training we offer - 
Our popular in-house courses cost just £965+vat for up to 16 delegates - that can work out at £60+vat per delegate!

Click here for our training brochure

This month's useful
standard letter

The Two Child Limit rule does not apply to bedroom allocation!
We have heard of claimants - who have recently had a third plus child - who have been told by the DWP that, as they are not receiving the Child Element for the new baby, they are not entitled to the extra bedroom for them when the amount of the Housing Costs Element included in their UC assessment is worked out.

This is not correct! The new baby should be taken into account for the size criteria! And it may mean that the claimant is now deemed as needing an extra bedroom.

So, we have a new Standard Letter UC BT8
  which can be copied or uploaded to the claimant's journal to have any Bedroom Tax / LHA decision reviewed.


Click here for more information.

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.....?


'Overdrawn?' leaflet?
...about the 'First Right of Appropriation'

If someone is overdrawn, any payment of wages or benefits going into the account can be 'swallowed up' by their overdraft.
But did you know that the account holder has the right to say how money paid into their account is used?

Using the First Right of Appropriation can help someone to ensure that they have enough money to live on and pay their bills - including their rent.

Our leaflet has a letter template which the account holder can use.

Find it here.

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 the Nov/Dec winner - Grant from Cheltenham Borough Homes
- a £50 cheque is making its way to the Cheltenham Foodbank
To enter this month's competition, just email the answer to the question below to us by Friday 22nd February 2019 for your chance to win.

This month's quiz question is.....

Which of the following people would NOT qualify for a Severe Disability Premium in their legacy benefit award?

Find information to help you – and a link to our factsheet - here.

Rupinder is 45. He lives alone in a one bedroom flat. He is looking for work and gets Income Based Jobseekers Allowance. He also gets the standard rate daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, due to his learning disability. Nobody receives Carer’s Allowance or has a Carer Element in their Universal Credit for looking after him.

Alison is 38. She lives alone in a one bedroom flat. She gets Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (in the Support Group) and the standard rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment. Nobody receives Carer's Allowance or has a Carer Element in their Universal Credit for looking after her.

Pearl and Mike live together. They are both 57. Pearl claims Income Related ESA and has Mike on her claim as her partner. Both Pearl and Mike get the standard rate daily living component of Personal Independence Payment. Nobody receives Carer’s Allowance or has a Carer Element in their Universal Credit for looking after either of them.

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

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