Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
Newsletters: April 2021

April 2021 Newsletter

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

In this issue find out more about:

  • Deductions from UC - What's changed?
  • Coronavirus and benefits - Update
  • Moving home, out of 'specified' or 'temporary' accommodation - would this always trigger a UC claim?
  • Bedroom Tax and computer glitch - Update
  • Healthy Start Scheme - Update
  • New Benefit Rates 
  • EU Settlement Scheme - deadline for applications approaching
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and a box of chocolates for you!
Deductions from UC - what's changed?
30% limit reduced to 25% from April 2021
The maximum amount that can be deducted for third party deductions, recovery of advances and hardship payments from a claimant's UC award is dropping from 30% to 25% of their Standard Allowance.

The government announced in the March 2021 budget statement that this change was being introduced from April rather than (as had been planned) from October 2021.

Could there be any impact on Third Party Deductions for rent arrears?
Yes. In some situations where the Third Party Deduction (TDP) for rent arrears has been set at more than the 10% minimum (of the claimant's Standard Allowance), then the reduction in the total percentage allowed to be deducted from a claimant's UC award could cause the TDP for rent arrears to drop.

Example -
Joe is 30 and single. He has been having deductions taken from his Universal Credit as follows:
5% of his UC Standard Allowance for fuel arrears (£20.49)
5% for Council Tax arrears (£20.49)
and 20% for rent arrears (£81.98)
Total deductions = 30% of his Standard Allowance of £409.89 (2020/21 rate).

From his Monthly Assessment Period starting on 20 April 2021, this will change to:
5% of his UC Standard Allowance for fuel arrears (£20.58)
5% for Council Tax arrears (£20.58)
and 15% for rent arrears (£61.73)

Total deductions = 25% of his Standard Allowance of £334.91 (2021/22 rate).

So the amount paid to his landlord every 4 weeks in respect of his rent arrears will drop from £81.98 to £61.73.

New Claim Advances
Repayments of Advance Payments are the most common form of debt repayment from a UC award.

Changes that take effect from April 2021 mean that all new UC claimants who take up the offer of a New Claim / Benefit Transfer Advance will have a maximum of 24 months to repay it, up from the previous 12 months. 

This is certainly beneficial to many claimants - who can 'borrow' the same amount but pay it back over a longer period meaning reduced repayments.

For those claimants with multiple debts - it will mean having the same amount reduced from their UC award ie 25% of their Standard Allowance - but that money will then be split across more creditors, perhaps meaning they can stop a personal repayment plan and/or ease pressure from that creditor.

But this 24 month repayment plan is only available to new claimants. Existing claimants - who had agreed a 12 month (or less) repayment period will still need to repay their Advance over that agreed period, meaning that there will be no change to their monthly deductions.

Could there be any impact on Third Party Deductions for rent arrears?
Yes, there's good and bad news! In the past a landlord might have been refused Third Party Deductions because the claimant was already having the maximum deduction taken out of their UC award to repay an Advance. For new claimants this will be less common.
But for those who remain repaying an Advance over 12 months, the drop in the maximum amount that can be deducted - as detailed above - could mean that a deduction for rent arrears above the minimum 10% reduces, or could stop altogether.

Example -
Owen is 38. He is a lone parent with two children. When he moved onto UC 6 months ago he took out a New Claim Advance of £800 - so his UC payments are being reduced by £66.66 a month to repay this. He also has rent arrears.

The maximum that can be taken out of his UC for these deductions has been 30% of his Standard Allowance ie £122.96 (2020/21 rates).
So the total deductions he has been paying are:
£66.66 for the Advance Payment
10% of his Standard Allowance for his rent arrears (£40.48).

From April 2021 his Advance Payment continues being recovered at the same rate but the total he can now have deducted from his UC award has reduced to 25% of his Standard Allowance ie £102.87

This means that the Third Party Deduction for rent arrears has to stop - this is because if the minimum was taken (ie 10% of his Standard Allowance - £41.15) this would take his total deductions over the new 25% maximum.

DWP policy on sticking to the maximum deductions for fines ruled unlawful
The High Court has ruled that the DWP's blanket policy, on the way it has treated claimants who have been struggling financially due to their high deductions for court fines, is unlawful.
The maximum deduction rate from UC for a court fine is £108.35 per month. The DWP policy was to apply the maximum where possible and if that was causing the claimant hardship, then the claimant should apply to the magistrates' court if they wanted a lower deduction rate.

However, in March 2021 the High Court ruled that the DWP's policy of automatically deducting the maximum possible amount and its failure to use discretion was unlawful. The Court ruled that the DWP was fettering its discretion by adopting 'a rigid arithmetical formula embodying an inflexible rule, rather than, as the legislation requires, exercising a discretion'.

Click here to find out more.

Anyone who is struggling financially due to a deduction for a Court Fine can ask the DWP Debt Management Dept to consider a lower deduction rate. They will need to provide details of their income and expenditure - and it is a discretionary matter.

Click here for more information and book a place...
Coronavirus & Benefits - update

Below we have listed the full Coronavirus benefit measures still in place - those highlighted are the announcements made in the last couple of weeks.

 £20 a week uplift in UC Standard Allowance. To continue until October 2021
 UC Minimum Income Floor suspended. To continue until end July 2021* and then considered on an individual basis.
*Any new claimant, who made their claim within the past 12 months, will still benefit from a full 12 month ‘grace period’ following that.
 Universal Credit surplus earnings threshold. The higher surplus earnings threshold of £2,500 has been extended until April 2022, when the threshold will revert to £300.
 'Move to Universal Credit' managed migration pilot in Harrogate suspended. Due to re-start in April 2022.
 Working Tax Credit basic element increased by £1040. This was for 2020/21 only. Those eligible have received a £500 one off payment for 2021/22.
 Time limit for critical workers to report changes of circumstances for Tax Credit purposes extended from one month to three. Extended until 31st September 2021 (ie in line with Job Retention Scheme).
 Working Tax Credit will not be affected if a claimant’s working hours have been reduced due to Coronavirus and this is not a permanent reduction.           Extended until 31st September 2021 (ie in line with Job Retention Scheme).
 Local Housing Allowance figures were re-set for 2021/22. To remain at this level – no plan to increase or bring in line with private rental prices.
 New Style ESA – treated as having a Limited Capability for Work whilst isolating. To continue until 12th November 2021.
 New Style ESA – no waiting days if affected by Coronavirus. To continue until 12th November 2021.
 JSA – continued entitlement if a claimant, or child they are caring for, has Covid-19 or is self-isolating because of symptoms. To continue until 31st August 2021.
 Carers Allowance – continued entitlement during breaks in caring if carer or disabled person has Covid-19 or is self-isolating because of symptoms. To continue until 31st August 2021.
 Statutory Sick Pay extended to cover those self-isolating through the provision of ‘isolation notes’ instead of fit notes. To continue 
 Extending entitlement to means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit, to prisoners on temporary release. To continue until 31st August 2021 as long as temporary release is "expedient as a result of covid, and in such cases as S of S determines".
 Furloughed workers given entitlement to Maternity Allowance and other statutory
family-related benefits.
 Extended until the end of September 2021 – applies “where a person is a furloughed employee for the purposes of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”
 Suspending all face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits. Continues until indoor socialising is allowed. Although face-to-face work capability assessments remain temporarily
suspended, DWP are conducting paper based assessments where possible and have introduced telephone assessments and are trialling video assessments.
 Reviews and reassessments for all disability benefits were suspended. Gradual resumption since July 2020.
 Child Benefit – parents can claim without having to register their child’s birth. Continues, end date unknown.
 Covid winter grant payment. Extended to 20th June 2021 and being renamed the Covid Local Support Grant.
Click here for our COVID-19 pages...
Have you seen our

UC Pages ?

For just £495*+vat you can have these pages on your customer facing website for the next 12 months - updated remotely by us.

* Annual subscriptions usually cost £995+vat, reduced to £495+vat if buy before
1st June 2021
Click here for more information ...
Moving from specified or temporary accommodation 

We have received several queries recently about claimants who are:

  • on legacy benefits (Income Related ESA / Income Support / Income Based JSA / Tax Credits), and
  • claiming Housing Benefit for 'specified' or 'temporary' accommodation, and
  • moving into general needs accommodation which is in the same local authority area as the HB Office which administers their current HB award.

Claimants in this situation can remain on HB and their legacy benefits*.
Their HB can move with them - it is just a change of circumstances.

It would appear that several HB offices have been telling claimants that they must claim Universal Credit instead - because they are moving out of 'specified' / 'temporary' accommodation into general needs accommodation.

But the change of accommodation type is a red herring.  There is no reason why they cannot remain on their existing benefits at their new address.

We have devised a new standard letter HB UC3 for claimants to send to the HB Office to ensure their HB is continuous / ask for it to be reinstated. 

*Note though, that if there are other changes occurring apart from moving home, eg. separating from a partner, then that change might trigger the need to claim UC.

*Also note that if a claim for UC has already been made, the claimant will remain on UC, although they might be able to get HB reinstated for the period from when it was terminated up to when UC was claimed.

*And someone might choose to claim UC - if they are better off on UC than on legacy benefits.

Click here for more info on moving out of specified accommodation
Click here for info on moving out of temporary accommodation
Click here for standard letter HB UC3
Bedroom Tax - UC computer glitch update

In last month's newsletter, we asked if you had come across claimants who were being paid too much in their UC housing costs, due to a glitch with the Universal Credit computer system.

Where a social housing claimant has three bedrooms and would normally only be eligible for one but they have been granted a second bedroom on medical grounds, the UC system has excluded them from the Bedroom Tax deduction altogether, even though there is still one 'spare' bedroom.

We sent a Freedom of Information request and received the following response.
This issue has been investigated, which has now been fixed for new claimants and claimants currently on Universal Credit when they declare a change of circumstances.

The response did not answer our questions about how the DWP would deal with the overpayment!

We do not have any further information on this matter at the moment. We hope that the above information means that claimants can re-report their housing costs on the UC system and this will mean that their housing costs are calculated correctly.

Of course, this will mean that their housing costs will be lower - because the Bedroom Tax will then be correctly applied. But this will prevent any further overpayments.

If any recovery action is taken for overpayments caused by this computer glitch and which could not have been prevented by the claimant, claimants could make a complaint and request that the DWP use their discretion not to recover it. 

We would be interested to hear from you about how this works for your customers. email info@housingsystems.co.uk
E-Learning Package

Coming soon -
Course Number 12

Housing Costs Element - eligibility

Subscriptions for all your staff to have unlimited access to our ever growing library of
E-Learning courses for a year cost from just £750+vat per annum.

Click here for more info.

Healthy Start Scheme update 

In England and Wales, the Healthy Start Scheme provides vouchers for food and milk and free vitamins to eligible claimants.

From April 2021 the value of the vouchers has increased. 
Pregnant women and children over one and under four years old can get £4.25 per week (previously they got £3.10).
Children under one year old get £8.50 per week (previously they got £6.20).

The Scottish Government introduced the Best Start Foods Scheme to replace the Healthy Start Scheme. Help is given via a prepaid card that can be used to buy healthy foods for children under three years old. This scheme already provides £4.25 / £8.50 per week.

There are some differences between the eligibility criteria and how the different schemes work.

Click here to find out more...

New Benefit Rates

Effective from 12th April - we have been working hard to update the website and our resources to take account of the new benefit rates.

Benefit Rates Poster
Our Benefits Rates Poster is available now to view online / print off - see link below.

Folding Benefit Rates Leaflets
These have now been mailed to all our Main Contacts.  If you have not received yours by 1st May 2021 then please contact your manager and ask them to complete the form in the link below  in respect of your team / organisation.

Click here for our Benefit Rates Poster
Benefit Rates Leaflet order form
Mixed Age Couples
Blended Learning:
E-Learning plus Workshop

just £79+vat
E-Learning - w/c 4th May
Workshop - Wed 12th May am
click here to find out more...
 EU Settlement Scheme
From 1st July 2021 EEA Nationals (and their non EEA family members) will no longer be able to rely on their previous rights to live, work and study in the UK unless they have been granted either Pre-Settled or Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Click here for the down-loadable leaflet
Click here for our Hot Topic

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.  
Congratulations to Nicola from Castles and Coasts who won our March quiz! A £50 donation is on its way to her chosen food bank.

Why not enter our competition and possibly win a donation 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.

To enter this month's competition, just email your entry to us by Friday 14th May 2021 for your chance to win.

This month's competition question:

Which is the correct statement?

A: Ghita's son has moved back home. He is 20 and working full time. Ghita's UC award will drop by £77.87 a month.

B: Paul's daughter has moved back home. She's 25 and claiming Carers Allowance. Paul's UC award will drop by £77.87 a month.

C: Sonia's son is moving back home. He is 23 and a full time degree student. Sonia's UC award will drop by £77.87 a month.

Find the answer on this page: click here

And email your entry to: 
Want to know more about:

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