News & Updates
Welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information. In this issue find out more about:
Many EEA Nationals - who were previously claiming legacy benefits - are being refused UC. Why is this?When someone makes a claim for UC - even where they are already claiming a DWP benefit - the DWP are insisting that the claimant re-verifies their ID and if they are an EEA National they have to prove that they pass the Habitual Residence Test (HRT) all over again ie that they are an EEA National who can claim benefits.But even EEA Nationals that do have the right to claim UC are being refused. This appears to be for a number of reasons including:
The whole process takes weeks and in that time the claimant may have no money - but until they have 'passed' the HRT, they are not able to receive an Advance Payment - as they have not proved that they qualify for Universal Credit.So in an attempt to help EEA Nationals get the right decision quickly we are devising a new 'Help Pack'. The aim is to:
Please take a look at the help pack and the letters and let us know if there are any other resources you feel would be useful.We hope you find it helpful!
Many UC claimants are experiencing problems with the RTI system - the system the DWP use to verify their earnings.We have recently improved the information on the website and devised a couple of new standard letters to help you provide the correct advice and information to your customers on this issue.One letter tackles the real problem of the DWP using wages the claimant has not received due to an error with the RTI system - we have even heard of situations where a different claimant's wages have been used!Other RTI issues are harder to challenge - but here are a few Key Facts:The UC Regulations state that it is the wages as paid to a claimant in an Assessment Period that should be used when, working out the claimant's entitlement to UC for that period.BUT they do allow the DWP an element of discretion - so a claimant could request a different approach where:
*Last year there was a High Court decision looking at this issue - the trouble is the remedy the High Court suggested is not really workable - so we are waiting to hear from the DWP whether they are changing anything following on from that decision.
From April 2019, Citizens Advice take over Universal Support
Their service will be available to allow claimants to access their support in a way that's right for them, and this will be:
Their aim is to assess the claimant's level of needs and ensure each claimant accesses the level of support that will work for them.They will start by checking that Universal Credit is the right benefit for the claimant.If it is then they will help with the initial claim ie :
They will also help claimants:
And they will offer access to longer term support where appropriate by signposting or referring claimants to other support service - within Citizens Advice or through other organisations.
Job Centres wrongly advising people to claim Universal CreditThe chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd about, "extremely worrying evidence that some jobcentres have been moving claimants to universal credit even when their circumstances have not changed. This seems to be happening without consideration of whether the move will leave claimants worse off over all."He has asked Amber Rudd to confirm whether jobcentres have been encouraged or instructed to move claimants, either individually or in groups, from legacy benefits to universal credit and, if not, provide an explanation of why this is happening.Click here for the letter. And click here for the groups of claimants who can be worse off on UC.
NOT ALL CHANGES MEAN A CLAIMANT HAS TO CLAIMUNIVERSAL CREDITand many claimants are over £50 a week worse off on Universal CreditUse our Need2ClaimUC? mapping tool to help make sure you are giving the correct advice.
Why is the 53 week rent year and Universal Credit a Hot Topic at the moment?There has been a lot of confusion about what this year being a 53 week year will mean - some commentators are saying that UC claimants will find their UC award one week short this year, whilst others are saying the opposite ie no loss at all.Our 'take' on it is that a UC claimant who lives in rented accommodation is missing out on about a day’s help with their rent from UC for each year they are on it.This is because when the DWP convert a weekly rent into a monthly rent they always assume a 52 week rent year - ie covering 364 days (7 x 52), but there aren't exactly 52 weeks in a year so years are either 365 days long or 366 in a leap year. This means that if the claimant doesn't pay that extra day themselves this then 'catches up' with them on their rent account once every 5/6 years - ie whenever there is a 53 rent collection year due to there being 53 Mondays in a financial year.So there is a week's Housing Costs Element 'missing' which has accumulated over a 5/6 year period - so a claimant who has been on UC throughout those 5/6 years receives one week’s less help with their rent than they need.The trouble is the one week’s 'debt' shows on the rent account - not as a slowly accumulating debt - but as a sudden jump in arrears, because the full week’s rent will be debited on the Monday of the 53rd week.Ideally a landlord would be collecting a day and a bit more rent per year over the 5/6 year period.Ideally - if looking for a long term solution that's fair to all UC claimants - then the DWP should be working out the rental liability over a 5 year period ie weekly rent x 261 (4 x 52 + 1 x 53) / 5 / 12. Not too sure we'll be able to convince them of that!So how do you explain to tenants on Universal Credit that they need to start paying an extra day's rent a year?This is the best explanation we could come up with - feel free to use it:"Your landlord charges your rent weekly, but Universal Credit is assessed and paid monthly.Because of this, Universal Credit only pays 364 days in a year, even though there are always 365 days in a year (and 366 every leap year).So your Universal Credit is always going to be one day short each year (or two in a leap year).Why is this?The DWP work out your monthly rent by multiplying a week’s rent by 52 and dividing by 12. This would be fine if there were exactly 52 weeks rent in a year but there aren’t. There’s always an extra day in the year- or two in a leap year.(For the mathematically minded, it’s because 52 times 7 is only 364).You won’t normally notice this but every few years when the extra day falls on a Monday* it will show on your rent account as a full week’s debt.*As this is the day your rent week starts.Unfortunately 2019 is one of these years.The DWP have said they won’t pay any extra Universal Credit to cover this. Will this affect me?If you are clearing your rent account every week or month – reducing the balance to zero - then this won’t be a problem.But where you pay your rent every month by using the same system as the DWP (ie your weekly rent times 52 and divided by 12) then you’ll be a day short every year (two in a leap year) and will have to make up that extra.If you think you are going to be affected by this please contact us."