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Newsletters: October 2020



October 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to our latest newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information. 

In this issue find out more about:

  • Change to Transitional SDP Payments - becoming a Transitional Element - which can be 'eroded'.
     
  • Coronavirus measures update - new schemes and changes ahead.
     
  • Untidy Tenancies - Update to DWP procedure.
     
  • Warm Home Discount - the scheme is now open for winter 20/21.
     
  • 53 week rent year - court ruling on UC housing costs.
     
  • Supported Accommodation & UC - what should happen if the HB Office decide a claimant isn't living in 'Specified Accommodation'.
     
  • Mixed Age Couples - our new checklist.
     
  • HAVE YOU SEEN our E-Learning? - take a look at what we have on offer.
     
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and a box of chocolates for you!

Change to Transitional SDP Payments
Recent news headlines
You may have read news headlines saying that UC claimants were to get a boost of up to £405 a month from October!

What these articles were actually referring to was a change to the way existing Transitional SDP Payments were being paid. So there was not, in fact, any increase.

What's happening?
Indeed, rather than being paid as a separate payment on top of any UC award, those entitled to a Transitional SDP Payment will now have them included in their UC award - meaning they can be eroded over time.


Why is this change happening now?
This change was always expected - and is paving the way for when the SDP Gateway will cease to exist from 27th January 2021. From that date someone with a Severe Disability Premium (SDP) in their Income Related ESA, Income Support, Income Based JSA or Housing Benefit:
  • Will not be prevented from claiming UC,
  • Will not be able to make new claims for IR-ESA, IS, IB-JSA, HB* or Tax Credits,
  • May be entitled to a Transitional SDP Payment.
* Unless living in 'specified' or 'temporary' accommodation.
More information on the Transitional SDP Payments here
Want to know more about:

Maximising UC?


Get booked on to our popular Blended Learning:
One E-Learning Module plus Workshop
Workshop date: Thurs 29th October 9.30am - 12.30pm
Just £59+vat per delegate - click here for more info.

Coronavirus measures update

Test and Trace Support payment 
The government has introduced a new scheme to support low income workers.
To be eligible for the funding, individuals must meet the following criteria:

1.    Have tested positive for Covid-19 on or after 28th September 2020 or received a notification from NHS Test and Trace on or after 28th September asking them to self-isolate.
2.    Be employed or self-employed.
3.    Be unable to work from home (checks will be undertaken on all applicants).
4.    Will lose income as a result.
5.    Be currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Income-Related Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.

The £500 payment will be disregarded as income when benefits are calculated, but it is taxable.
More info here.


Job Support Scheme
A new Job Support Scheme, aimed at protecting jobs where businesses are either facing lower demand due to Covid-19, or have been legally required to close temporarily due to Covid-19, will run for 6 months from 1 November 2020.
More details here

Self Employed Income Support Scheme
The government has decided to extend the SEISS until the end of April 2021 for those who are actively trading but who are experiencing reduced demand due to the Coronavirus outbreak. It will work in the same way as before - although businesses must be trading - but with a much reduced payment. For the period November 2020  to January 2021 it will be worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1875. The government has not yet decided on the appropriate amount for February to April.
More here.


ESA waiting days / treated as unfit for work
The measure to allow New Style ESA to be paid from day 1 of the claim (rather than day 8) and to treat claimants as having a limited capability for work for those who are infected with Coronavirus, self-isolating or are caring for a child who is infected or self-isolating, has been extended until 12 May 2021. It was due to end on 12 November, but has been extended for a further 6 months.
More info here.


Working Tax Credit - drop in working hours
Back in the spring, the government said that claimants could remain on WTC even if their working hours had reduced below the number required in the Tax Credit Regulations. They said this measure would remain in place until the Job Retention Scheme closes. The Job Retention Scheme ends at the end of October 2020 - although it is being replaced by the Job Support Scheme. So we are expecting an announcement - keep checking our news headlines!

Suspension of the Minimum Income Floor
Since the end of March, Work Coaches have had the discretion not to apply the Minimum Income Floor rule to self employed claimants. This was a temporary measure and as the regulations currently stand, it is due to end on 12th November. So, unless the government decides to extend this easement, some UC claimants could be affected again, if their self employed earnings remain lower than the amount they would be expected to be earning. We are keeping our eyes and ears open in case of any news on this!

 

More on benefits and Coronavirus here
Want to know more about:

Coronavirus & Benefits?


Why not take our E-Learning module
It's free! - click here for more info.

Untidy Tenancies - Update

Are you seeing the benefits?
The DWP has confirmed that back in June 2020 a new ‘Record a change in joint tenancy costs’ 'To-Do' was introduced for agents to record exactly how many tenants live in the property and how much of the rent the claimant is responsible for.

The DWP have said that this should ensure such cases are automatically correctly paid each month without the need for manual payments or continued claimant intervention. New guidance has been issued to Work Coaches and Case Managers to make them aware of the changes.

So what should a new UC claimant do?
A new UC claimant should make their claim as normal and declare their Housing Costs. Whilst the above process should be automatic, the claimant could add a note to their journal confirming that they have an untidy tenancy and are in fact responsible for 100% of the rent to ensure the agent completes the 'To-Do'.

IMPORTANT: Whenever the claimant reports a change in their rent, the DWP will need to complete this 'To-Do' again - so claimants should ensure the amount of the Housing Costs Element is correct following the change and that the DWP's records are kept up to date.

Work Coaches must not...
Work Coaches and Case Managers have been reminded that they must not:

  • Ask the claimant to re-declare housing costs as a single tenancy, unless this is a genuine change in their circumstances.
  • Make a housing declaration on behalf of the claimant that it is a single tenancy. 
  • Ask the claimant to get a new tenancy from their landlord or a landlord letter to confirm the claimant is solely liable.
APA Managed Payment to Landlords
Under the new system of paying social housing landlords at the same time as the claimant, where there is an untidy tenancy, you may find that only 50% of the Housing Costs Element is paid to the Landlord. The DWP have said that they are working a on a fix for this.
More about untidy tenancies here

Warm Home Discount Scheme 

The Warm Home Discount Scheme is now open for this winter.

Those on Guarantee Pension Credit are automatically eligible - as long as their energy supplier is part of the scheme.

Others on a low income could be eligible. Eligibility criteria vary between suppliers, so it is best to check their websites for details of who can apply.

More details of the Warm Home Discount here

53 week rent year - new case law!

The High Court Ruling
The High Court has ruled that the formula for converting weekly rent to monthly amounts for the calculation of Universal Credit is neither irrational nor unlawful.
So the issue of the so-called '53 week rent year' continues!

What the Judge said
In [2020] EWHC 2482 (Admin), the Judge concluded that
'the rationale for choosing a 52/12 conversion ratio was a reasonable and rational one ...It promotes consistency and simplicity and reflects the reality that in most years, tenants will have 52 payments to make'.

The Judge also said,
'any difference in treatment is not manifestly disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued by the formulae' and
'universal credit was not intended to provide full reimbursement for tenants, and discretionary housing payments exist for those who may get into difficulty'.

More on the 53 week rent year here

Supported Accommodation and UC
What's the issue?
Where a claimant lives in 'Supported Housing' the help they get with paying their rent could come in the form of HB or a Housing Costs Element in their UC award - it all depends on whether or not they are living in 'Specified Accommodation'.

It would appear that the DWP would like the HB Office to make this decision for anyone living in Supported or Sheltered Housing.

Recent Guidance
Their recent guidance is for anyone living in Supported or Sheltered Housing to tick the data gather question when making a claim for UC confirming this and then make a claim for Housing Benefit.

If Housing Benefit is awarded no further action with regards to their rent is than needed by the DWP.

What if HB isn't awarded?
If the HB Office decide that the claimant does not live in 'Specified Accommodation' and cannot therefore receive HB to help pay their rent, they will notify the claimant of this decision.

DWP's advice is that the claimant, to claim support with housing costs through their UC award, must declare a change in circumstances stating that ‘I rent from a council or housing association’ or ‘I rent from a private landlord’.

IMPORTANT: The claimant MUST  also ask that their housing costs award is reconsidered back to the date that they previously declared that ‘I’m in supported or sheltered accommodation’. This will enable housing costs to be awarded from the earlier date.

Whilst there has not actually been a change in the claimant's circumstances, this appears to be the 'fix' the DWP have put in place to ensure these claimants receive their full entitlement.
More details on UC and Supported Housing here
New E-Learning Course:

Intro to Welfare Benefits


This takes the total number of E-Learning courses up to 11, with more in development.

Check out our annual subscription that gives unlimited access to all your staff to these courses from just £750+vat per annum.

Click here for more info.

Useful Tools:
Mixed Age Couples
Have you seen our new Mixed Age Couples Checklist?

This is one of the most complicated areas of benefit advice - and for those Mixed Age Couples that have options, taking the wrong one can leave them over £100 a week worse off !

 
Click here for the summary sheet


Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank and a box of chocs for you!

 
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 donation from us, and they will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

Well done to our September winner -  Catherine at Maundy Relief - who won a free place at our Conference and a £50 cheque for the Food Bank they run.


To enter this month's competition, just email your entry to us by Friday 6 November 2020 for your chance to win.

This month's competition question - 

Charlie claims Income Support - she is a single parent with a 4 year old child.
She moves to a more suitable rented house in a different local authority area - so she has to claim Universal Credit instead of IS and HB.
She qualifies for the 2 week run on of Income Support and Housing Benefit.
Can she also apply for a Benefit Transfer Advance based on 100% of her expected UC award?

Yes or No?


Find the answer here

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

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